The Somalia national army on Wednesday killed eight al-Shabab militants and recovered weapons and munitions during an operation in central Somalia, officials and residents said.
Somali Army Colonel Ahmed Mohamed Tredishe told VOA Somali the operation took place around Masagawa town in the Galgaduud region.
"A specially trained unit of our soldiers have carried out the operation to flush out al-Shabab militants from a base near Masagawa," Tredishe said. "Despite initial resistance, we managed to kill eight of them and recover dangerous weapons."
He said one government soldier died in the attack.
Masagawa residents who spoke to VOA Somali on condition of anonymity said they heard loud explosions as government soldiers engaged in a gun battle with the militants.
“It was around just before dawn this morning when we heard a fierce exchange of gunfire and loud explosions,” one resident said. “As the day wore on, we found out government soldiers searching the al-Shabab military base with eight dead bodies of the militants lying in a pool of blood. We also saw a cache of assault rivals, munitions and hand grenades recovered by the soldiers.”
The town has been under al-Shabab control for many years. The militant group has been imposing zakat, or a tax on the local population, forcing a number of militias from the local clan to aid the Somali Army operating in the region.
The operation comes as Somalia’s federal and regional state leaders are meeting in Baidoa, the Bay region’s provincial capital, to discuss the security of national elections scheduled for August.
"The leaders are here to discuss the country’s upcoming elections, the security of the elections, the electoral process," a spokesman for Somalia’s president told VOA.
The meeting brought together Somali President Hassan Sheilkh Mohamud and the leaders of Puntland, Jubaland, Galmudug and South West State.