Mogadishu – Somali government troops backed by African peacekeepers have retaken control of a town close to the Kenyan border hours after its seizure by heavily-armed Shabaab jihadists, officials and witnesses said.
“Somali government forces and Amisom peacekeepers took full control of Elwak this morning, the violent elements have fled before the forces reached them,” Elwak Commissioner Ibrahim Guled told reporters.
He said six Somali soldiers had been killed when Shabaab fighters attacked the town on Friday. “We have inflicted heavy casualties on them,” he added.
A local resident reached by phone told AFP that the assailants pulled out after midnight after looting the military camp. “They have taken everything they found in the camp including three vehicles,” said Omar Abdukadir.
Sources said at least 12 people were killed during the clashes late Friday between Somali forces and the Shabaab militants who were disguised as Kenyan soldiers and riding in military vehicles captured from the Kenyan army.
In January, the al-Qaeda aligned jihadist group razed a base run by the Kenyan contingent of Amisom – the African Union Mission in Somalia – in El-Alde in the south, seizing arms and large quantities of munitions.
It was their third assault in months on an Amisom base.
The Shabaab, which was forced out of the capital five years ago, continues to launch attacks against government, military, civilian and foreign targets in its fight to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu.
The group is expected to try to violently disrupt elections due to be held in September and October.