Al Shabaab insurgents in Somalia have overrun a military base in the southern Jubbaland region that they had lost to the army in January.
A Somali officer told Reuters on Tuesday that Al Shabaab attacked the base in Janay Abdale, about 60 km to the west of the port city of Kismayu, early in the morning with a car bomb and gunfire.
Speaking from Kismayu, Major Abdullahi Hussein said fighters from the militant group had cut communications in the area and that the army had sent reinforcements.
The Jubbaland government said regional and national forces had inflicted a “big blow” on al Shabaab but did not provide details. Casualty figures were not immediately available for either side.
Eyewitness reports also confirmed the bombing and fierce fighting which they said killed many soldiers and destroyed several military vehicles.
Confirming it was behind Tuesday’s attack, Al Shabaab said in a statement: “We control the base. We took all their weapons.”
In January, forces from Jubbaland had wrested control of Janay Abdale from al Shabaab as part of the offensive which first began in the centre of Somalia before spreading south.
According to a recent Reuters report, Al Shabaab, an affiliate of al Qaeda, has come under intense pressure from the military and allied clan-based militias, who launched a major offensive last year. But the group has repeatedly shown its ability to strike back with major attacks.
There has been no fighting in the past week, fuelling speculation in Somalia that the offensive has stalled. The government said it was merely observing a pause before launching the next phase of operations.