Al-Shabab fighters attacked two military bases belonging to the Somali National Army early on Saturday morning.
The bases, located 100km (60 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu, were struck by two explosions, witnesses said. A third explosion targeted a convoy of troops rushing to the bases from the capital after the attack.
Hussein Nur, a military officer, said the army lost “several” soldiers in the attack on Bariire and Awdhigle bases, without giving a precise number.
The army sent in reinforcements from other bases, who killed an unidentified number of attackers in the ensuing fight, he said.
The army was now in control of both bases and the surrounding areas, Nur said, adding, “We are pursuing the militants in the surrounding jungle.”
Al-Shabab said it launched a vehicle-borne suicide-bomb attack on the Bariire base while simultaneously attacking the nearby Awdhigle base with a car bomb and fighters to prevent troops stationed there from reinforcing Bariire.
“We overran Bariire base, burnt three military vehicles and took two vehicles,” said Abdiasis Abu Musab, al-Shabab’s spokesman for military operations, referring to a brief occupation of Bariire.
He confirmed a third vehicle-borne explosive device hit a convoy of government troops racing from Mogadishu with reinforcements.
Al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, has launched attacks for years and levied tolls on trade in a campaign to introduce strict religious law.