At least eight people, including six Somali government officials, were killed Tuesday in a heavy al-Shabab attack on Afgoye, a town 30 kilometers west of the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
Among those killed were the commander of custodial corps (prison guards) Colonel Hassan Hashi Mohamed, the deputy commander of the town's police force Captain Ahmed Abdulkadir, senior police officer Abdulkadir Abdulle Gorod and head of regional department of finance Mohamud Dahir Qoley.
The governor of the Lower Shabelle region, Ibrahim Aden Ali, confirmed the deaths of the officials to VOA Somali. He said Mohamed was killed in a firefight with al-Shabab fighters in his office. The other officials were killed in a massive car bomb detonated by the militants near the town's police station. That was followed by a heavily armed infantry attack.
Ali said the militants had loaded a mini-bus with vegetables and other farm produce to disguise the explosives.
"After the explosion, they attacked three security checkpoints around the town simultaneously," he said.
Ali praised the fallen commander of the prison guards, Mohamed, who he said fought off several al-Shabab attacks on his town.
"He was a career officer who worked with the previous government, at least 65 years old, a brave, honest officer," Ali said.
Al-Shabab fighters pulled out of Afgoye late Tuesday after brief control, as the government forces regrouped on the outskirts. Al-Shabab claimed killing up to 40 "apostates" in the attack.
Al-Shabab, which has been fighting the Somali government since 2006, has vowed to disrupt upcoming Somali elections.
Afgoye was one of nine towns that Somali security officials had said were at risk of al-Shabab attacks, along with Afmadow, Qoryoley, Dafed, Marka, Dinsor, Beled Hawo, El-Bur and Bulobarde.