Officials in Somalia say an al-Shabab attack on a military base in the south of the country has been "repulsed.”
The deputy president of Jubaland state, Mohamud Sayid Aden, told VOA Somali that al-Shabab militants used explosives and armed fighters to attack Janaa Cabdalle, 60 kilometers west of Kismayo.
“This morning the Khawarij (deviants) attacked Janaa Cabdalle base, a strategic base which was captured from them before,” he said, using a term for al-Shabab militants.
“As is the hallmark for their attacks they used a series of explosives and suicide bombing, but the Somali troops defended the base,” he added.
He said Tuesday’s al-Shabab attack “failed” as government troops fought off the militants. Aden said barriers erected by the soldiers in anticipation of the al-Shabab attack prevented explosives penetrating the base.
Five soldiers were killed and more than 10 others injured, according to Aden.
“Brave men are among the dead, and as opined in fatwa (ruling) by the religious scholars, they will be in paradise,” he said.
He said al-Shabab suffered higher casualties as a result of the attack.
Al-Shabab said its fighters “overran” the base and killed 89 soldiers, a figure that has not been independently verified.
The group’s military affairs spokesperson, Abdulaziz Abu Mus’ab, told al-Shabab media that 20 vehicles were seized from the government forces.
Abu Mus’ab also said that al-Shabab ambushed reinforcements the government sent from Yontoy and Bar Sanguni bases, east of Janaa Cabdalle.
Aden denied al-Shabab claims of high casualty figures among regional and federal forces.
“It’s baseless,” he said.
Somali government forces supported by local fighters have driven al-Shabab from large areas in Hirshabelle and Galmudug states in operations that began last August.
The government’s national security adviser, Hussein Sheikh-Ali, told VOA last week that authorities are preparing a second phase of military operations which will involve additional troops sent by the three countries bordering Somalia – Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.
Aden said government forces are in control of the Janaa Cabdalle base, which he said is key to advancing on al-Shabab strongholds in the Middle Juba region.
“The target is their biggest base in Middle Juba, a final offensive on Jilib and Buale and the other big bases they have been occupying for a long time,” he said. “Janaa Cabdalle is the closest strategic base to launch an offensive from.”
The government has been fighting al-Shabab for more than 15 years. Al-Shabab wants to remove the government and impose its brand of strict Islamic law.