Police arrested several suspected members of terrorist group al-Shabab during an operation in the town of Bardere, in southern Somalia’s Gedo region.
“We conducted a large-scale security operation in the town following intelligence information that a number of people with intention of planning attacks are hiding in the city,” Xinhua news agency quoted Abdiqani Shu’ayb, a senior police officer in Bardere, as saying.
Shu’ayb said officers found “different types of weapons used by al-Shabab to disrupt the security situation” and that police would “continue similar operations to beef up security.”
News of the arrests comes amid multiple reports of Somali government and African Union forces engaging al-Shabab forces in southern portions of the country.
Xinhua reports Somali and AU forces captured Bardere from the militants earlier this month, and Somalia’s military said it killed 12 al-Shabab militants during a battle for the town of Garbaherey, in the Gedo region, on Aug. 25.
AU forces in Somalia on July 14 said they killed 25 al-Shabab fighters during a five-hour militant assault on the Rage Celle district, in the country’s south.
Human Rights Watch meanwhile called for an investigation into an incident on July 31 in which Ugandan AU forces allegedly killed six civilians at a wedding in the southern port town of Merca following a bomb attack on their convoy.
Al-Shabab is a Somalia-based Islamist militant group that is affiliated with al-Qaida. It took over most of the country’s south in 2006 before being militarily defeated by Somali and Ethiopian forces the following year. In 2008, the United States branded the group a foreign terrorist organization.
Since then it has conducted a series of deadly attacks in Somalia and neighboring Kenya, including the 2013 assault on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi that ended with at least 67 people dead, and at Garissa University College earlier this year, where masked al-Shabab gunmen killed nearly 150 people.