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At least 14 dead as Al-Shabaab briefly seizes town in Somalia

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

BAL'AD, Somalia - At least 14 Al-Shabaab militants were on Tuesday morning killed in Bal'ad town, at least 30 KM north of Mogadishu, a senior government official said, in a raid which comes at the time the Somali National Army [SNA] is conducting joint operations against the militants across the Horn of Africa nation.

The would-be deadly attack targeted an SNA base in Central Somalia, but the army responded swiftly by foiling the raid, which would have left dozens dead. Tuesday's attack was the fourth against SNA by the Al-Shabaab in Bal'ad town, where militants have been targeting security forces using IEDs.

Residents said that Al-Shabaab entered the town early on Tuesday morning and raided headquarters of local government and other key locations including an SNA base. Fierce gunfight erupted as the militants tried to retake the town, which has been under the control of government troops for several months.

The militants fired randomly against civilians and the security forces as they tried to take strategic positions. However, officials said, the government troops fought back fiercely as they retook the town, removing explosives that had been implanted by the militants who were overpowered.

Ismael Mukhtaar, the Somali government spokesperson, said that the attack left at least 14 Al-Shabaab militants dead as others scampered for safety after they were overpowered by the vigilant security forces. One government soldier died during the melee, he added.

Also, he noted, seven civilians who were going about their routine early morning activities were injured following the sporadic gunfight in the strategic town. The injured civilians have since been taken to nearby hospitals where they are undergoing treatment, he added.

"Calm has been restored in Bal'ad town after an Al-Shabaab attack this morning. 14 Al-Shabaab militants were killed by government soldiers in an attack which left one SNA soldier dead and seven civilians injured," the spokesperson said in a tweet, a platform which he usually uses to update the public.

SNA troops are combing the scene as they pursue the militants, who have been fighting hard to regain control of the town. Bal'ad town is strategic in the sense that the militants were using it for the generation of revenue from businessmen and locals, which they often used to run their operations including but not limited to paying terrorists.

The attack comes barely 24 hours after the militants also tried to outrun a US-run military base in Janay Abdalla, 50 KM West of Kismayo, the regional administrative capital of Jubaland on Monday. The US army said that one serviceman was critically injured in an attack where one Al-Shabaab militant died.

The government also said that two SNA officers were killed and three others injured. On Tuesday, the Danab troops and their Jubaland counterparts closed roads near the military base to pave way for a joint operation which will target the militants, who have been fighting with an aim of toppling the fragile UN-backed Somalia government.