Authorities in the southwestern Somali town of Beled Hawo said six Ethiopians were among seven people killed in an overnight attack by suspected al-Shabab militants.
The district commissioner of the town, Abdirashid Abdi Arog, told VOA Somali that gunmen attacked a compound, killing five women and two men.
“Last night at around 3:24 am local time we heard heavy gunfire, it happened at a time when security patrols change shifts, and the murderers took advantage of that,” Arog said. “Troops responded and when they reached the site they saw civilians – men, women and children who some of them were killed and some injured.”
The six slain Ethiopians are ethnic Oromo while the seventh victim is a Somali woman, Arog said. Six other Ethiopians were injured in the attack, he added.
He said the Somali woman killed was a neighbor of the Ethiopians who came out when she heard the gunshots and shone a light on the attackers.
Arog said security forces offered support by calling the ambulance services and evacuating the wounded to medical centers.
He said some of the wounded were taken to Mandera, Kenya, for treatment.
Authorities suspect al-Shabab militants to be behind the attack.
“We know their tracks, we are investigating but we have the terrorists who kill people to be behind this,” Arog said. “They are the ones who kill people; we are accusing them of this killing.”
Arog said Beled Hawo is a border town, which sees movement of people from Kenya,
Ethiopia as well as Somalis. He said the attackers fired indiscriminately.
The security minister for Jubaland State, Yusuf Hussein Dhumal, told VOA Somali that his administration believes al-Shabab targeted the Ethiopian nationals, who live in the town for business and domestic work purposes.
He said four gunmen were behind the attack. He said security forces followed them but the attackers escaped on motorcycles that collected them from the outskirts of the town and fled into towards the al-Shabab-controlled area of Gadoon Dhawe.
Asked about the motive of the attack, Dhumal said he believed the militants intended to “create conflict” between Somalis and Ethiopians.
“They have two objectives – one is terrorism which is known to them, and also to destabilize the people who live and work among us and [force them to] flee.”
Arog said authorities would be taking additional security measures to protect civilians.
“For us since we are the authorities in charge of the security of the area this incident is a question mark for us,” he said. “We have to respond, we have to take measures to ensure security and to make sure similar incident do not happen again.”
He said the victims were buried in Beled Hawo on Monday.
Al-Shabab has not yet commented on the attack.