The Al Shabaab militants seized a nearby town after storming a military base in central Somalia on Tuesday, local residents said.
According to residents of Amara in the Galmudug region, al Shabaab fighters used a suicide bomb to target government special forces units, known as Danab and Darawish.
Al Shabaab holds a stronghold in the coastal town of Harardheere, which is on the way to Amara. In 2011, Harardheere was once a pirate base during the height of merchant ship hijackings.
“Militants from al Shabaab attacked the area of Amara this morning. The government forces retreated, and al Shabaab took over,” Farah Osman, a resident of Amara told Associated Press.
Another resident confirmed the attack.
Al Shabaab attacked a military base in Amara and took control of the town. They captured 11 armored vehicles and burned seven others, then took photos of them,” Ismail Nur, a resident of Amara, said.
There were no details on casualties provided by the residents.
In a broadcast, Al Shabaab’s Radio Andalus claimed responsibility for the attack and capture of the town, adding that it had seized 14 cars and 10 gun-toting pickup trucks.
A spokeswoman for al Shabaab was not immediately available to comment, nor were officials from the Galmudug region.
As of earlier this month, the government and Galmudug regional forces took control of Amara, which was under al Shabaab control for the past decade.
The joint operations also liberated several towns from al Shabaab, including Baadweyn and other villages in the region.
Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab party often launches attacks in its war on the government, seeking to topple it and impose its strict interpretation of Islamic law.
The attacks have targeted Somali military bases as well as civilian infrastructure including hotels, bars, and schools in both Somalia and neighbouring countries.