At least four Somali soldiers were killed and more than 10 others were wounded when al-Shabab militants stormed a military base in the semiautonomous region of Puntland in northeastern Somalia, witnesses said Saturday.
The militants began the raid at midnight on the Bali-Khadar base near the Galgala mountains of the Bari region. Sources said the Puntland soldiers stationed there were forced to retreat but later recaptured the base from the militants.
Sources said scores of heavily armed al-Shabab militants carried out the raid on the base as they burned a number of military vehicles.
According to witnesses, at least four soldiers were killed in the raid, but al-Shabab claimed to have killed at least eight soldiers.
And in a new statement, Somalia’s Puntland state said its forces had killed 41 al-Shabab fighters in an operation to respond to the attack on the base.
The Puntland regional government accused Somaliland, the breakaway republic, of being involved in the attack on its military base, a claim VOA could not verify.
Somaliland denied any involvement in the Bali-Khadar attack. “We have nothing to do with” the raid, Mohamed Kahin, Somaliland interior minister, said in a telephone conversation with VOA.
Puntland uses the Galgala operation to try to convince Western countries “that they are fighting against al-Shabab militants operating in the area,” the minister said.
Both Puntland and Somaliland have been engaged in various military confrontations after recently clashing over land ownership in the northern Sool region.
Galgala is a chain of mountains in Puntland in northern Somalia where al-Shabab militants and pockets of Islamic State fighters have been battling regional forces for several years.
Meanwhile, Somalia government soldiers on Saturday recaptured the town of Moqokori in the central Hiran region, hours after it had fallen into the hands of al-Shabab fighters.
Residents said both sides engaged in fierce fighting Friday that resulted in an unknown number of deaths. Al-Shabab claimed to have killed more than 40 soldiers in Moqokori.
The jihadist al-Shabab group often steps up attacks on government facilities during the holy month of Ramadan. The group conducted a similar attack on a military base in Puntland during Ramadan last year, killing more than 50 Somali soldiers.