Security officials in Somalia say dozens of people were killed after militants attacked a small town in the central state of Galmudug early on Sunday.
At least 30 people were killed, among them civilian residents caught in the crossfire between militants and security forces in the town of Wisil, local officials told VOA Somali.
The attack started with the militants detonating a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device in an area close to a security camp in the town, said a regional official who asked not to be named because he is not allowed to speak to the media.
Galmudug’s information minister, Ahmed Shire Falagle, told VOA Somali that regional forces repulsed the dawn attack and inflicted losses on the militants. Falagle said three soldiers were among the dead with at least seven others injured. He said about 100 militants attacked the town and that “many of them have not returned alive.” He did not elaborate.
For its part, the al-Shabab militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it killed 34 members of the security forces.
Wisil lies 200 kilometers southeast of Galkayo in an area where al-Shabab recently made advances. In April, the group captured the town of Ba’adweyne, not far from Wisil, after government and regional forces vacated it for undisclosed reasons.
About two hours after the attack in Wisil, authorities in the regional state of Puntland executed 21 men accused of al-Shabab membership and terrorism, regional police commander Colonel Mumin Abdi Shire told the media.
The men were convicted in separate trials in the towns of Galkayo, Garowe and Qardho this year.
Eighteen of the men were lined up next to a sand hill outside the town of Galkayo. Security forces facing them opened fire, executing them. Separately, three other men were executed in Garowe and Qardho town. All of the executions were by firing squad. It is the largest single execution of al-Shabab militants in Somalia, observers say.
Security officials in Puntland accused the men of involvement in a series of assassinations and attacks, spanning more than 10 years, which claimed the lives of regional and community leaders, security officers and journalists.
Al-Shabab is largely active in south-central Somalia. The group also has a small footprint in Puntland in the northeast. Puntland is a semi-autonomous state.
Source: Voice of America