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Nearly 70 Dead in Al-Shabab Attack on Somalia Military Base

Puntland in northern Somalia also faces a growing threat from I.S.-linked fighters who have split from al-Shabab
By The News · 08 of June 2017 08:16:34
A fighter from the SDF carrying his rifles as he looks over the northern town of Tabqa, Syria. U.S.-backed opposition fighters led by Syrian Kurdish forces captured more territory from the Islamic State group, This Sunday, April 30, 2017 photo provided by the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), shows a fighter from the SDF carrying his rifles as he looks over the northern town of Tabqa, Syria. U.S.-backed opposition fighters led by Syrian Kurdish forces captured more territory from the Islamic State group in the northern town of Tabqa on Monday, pushing the extremists to northern neighborhoods, close to one of Syria's largest dams. (Syria Democratic Forces, via AP), photo: Syria Democratic Forces, via AP

Heavily armed al-Shabab extremists have stormed a military base in Somalia’s semiautonomous state of Puntland, killing close to 70 people and wounding dozens more, officials said Thursday. Residents said civilians, including women, were beheaded during the rampage.

Officials called it the region’s deadliest attack in years, highlighting the twin challenges facing security forces from the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab and the growing presence of fighters linked to the Islamic State group (I.S.).

The attack began with a blast at the remote Af-Urur camp, roughly 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of the commercial hub of Bossaso, before the extremists overran the base and killed soldiers at close range, said Ahmed Mohamed, a senior military official.

Close to 70 people were killed, though an exact death toll was not yet available, Mohamed said. Abdi Hersi Ali, Puntland’s interior minister, said troops suffered causalities but he declined to give further details.

Residents in the area reported chaotic scenes, with fighters beheading several civilians they encountered. One witness, Abdibasit Hassan, said women were among those beheaded.

“The situation is grim over there. This attack was an unexpected one,” Mohamed said. The extremists, including suicide bombers, reportedly attacked the base from three directions, forcing soldiers to retreat.

Col. Hashi Ahmed, a senior military official, said that reinforcement troops reached the area and drove the extremists out of the camp. He estimated that at least 100 fighters were involved in the attack.

Al-Shabab claimed killing at least 61 soldiers in the attack. The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist groups, said the extremist group issued the claim via its Shahada News Agency. Al-Shabab also said it seized a large amount of weapons and ammunition and more than a dozen military vehicles.

Puntland in northern Somalia also faces a growing threat from I.S.-linked fighters who have split from al-Shabab.

Liban Mohamed, a nurse at the hospital in nearby Armo town, said at least 40 wounded soldiers had been brought there after Thursday’s attack.