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Al-Shabaab kills over 20 soldiers in attack on military base in Somalia

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

MOGADISHU, Somalia - At least 20 Somali National Army [SNA] were killed at El-Salini military base on Wednesday morning, officials have said, during a brief take-over by Al-Shabaab militants.

Driving an explosive-laden vehicle, a suicide bomber detonated a VBIED inside the base before heavily armed militants stormed in while firing indiscriminately, witnesses said.

For 40 minutes, under siege SNA troops responded to the attack, leading to a fierce gunfight that leftover 20 soldiers dead, VOA reported.

But the brief capture of the military base was ended by SNA troops following a reinforcement, although the militants managed to loot sophisticated weapons and ammunition, police said.

"They took the base and took weapons and ammunition, this includes anti-aircraft guns fixed on pickups," said Nur Ahmed, a police officer from Afgoye in Lower Shabelle region.

Ismail Ali, a senior military officer, said the militants had initially killed 12 soldiers and injured the commander of the base, although the number of casualties increased, later on, Reuters reported.

Over 18 government soldiers were badly wounded, officials said, in the attack which also left 13 militants dead at the army base.

Abdiasis Abu Musab, the Al-Shabaab's operation spokesman, confirmed the attack, adding that several weapons were seized.

"We took the base. We took two pickups with anti-aircraft guns hooked on. We destroyed four other military vehicles," he told Reuters, adding that over 20 soldiers died.

Wednesday's attack was the second at the El-Salini military base, which is located 37 miles southwest of the capital Mogadishu.

In September last year, the militants raided the base, looting several weapons in the process besides killing an unknown number of soldiers, authorities said.

However, a would-be lethal attack on Wednesday at 5 a.m. at Qoryoley town was thwarted by security forces, with the help of AMISOM troops, officials said.

Before detonating another VBIED, troops stationed in the town, 60 kilometers West of Mogadishu, repelled the attack, killing over 14 militants, SNA said.

"They [al-Shabab] have suffered heavy casualties this morning and the army is in full control in both areas now," said Mohamed Adan, a Somali military commander in a nearby town.

"They have destroyed part of the bridge across the entrance to Qoryooley where the Somali military base is located using a vehicle loaded with explosives," he added.

Witnesses said dozens of heavily-armed al-Shabab fighters entered Qoryooley town and addressed a gathering of residents before retreating.

"The al-Shabab fighters entered the town and one of their commanders spoke with a gathering before they made their way out of the town. The situation is quiet now and the Somali forces backed by AMISOM soldiers are patrolling the streets," Ali Moalim, a resident in Qoryooley, told the AFP news agency by phone.

The Al Shabaab has been fighting the U.N.-backed Somali government for more than a decade in a bid to impose their strict version of Islamic law.

Lawlessness has eclipsed Somalia's attempts to return to normalcy, over there decades since the toppling of Siad Barre regime, which committed several atrocities in the country.