Dozens have been killed in Somalia after Shabaab gunmen ambushed an army convoy, officials and local elders said on Thursday, the latest battles with the Al Qaeda-linked insurgents.
Shabaab fighters launched attacks on the army convoy near the village of Tulo-Barwao in the southwestern Gedo district of Somalia on Wednesday, a region bordering Ethiopia and Kenya, sparking intense gun battles.
Government officials put the toll at 32 Shabaab and 11 government soldiers killed, while the Shabaab said the only casualties were 19 government troops.
Local elder Abdulahi Halane said around 30 people were killed in total.
It was not possible to independently verify the toll.
“The fighting was very heavy and 32 enemy Shabaab fighters, including senior commanders, were killed,” said Nur Mohamud Burale, a local government official.
“We lost 11 soldiers, and 16 others were wounded.”
“We have been launching operations to eliminate al Shabaab from the region. More police and military were sent after the ambush to chase the fighters hiding in the forested areas,” he said.
Shabaab militants claimed responsibility for the attack.
“Mujahedeen fighters carried out a successful ambush against a military convoy transporting senior apostate officials, killing 19,” the Shabaab said.
“We ambushed them but it turned into a fierce battle later,” Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, told reporters.
He said 18 people were killed.
The Shabaab is fighting to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu, and still controls large parts of the rural south.