More than 20 combatants of the Al-Shabaab and several soldiers from Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region were killed Wednesday in fighting, officials said. Puntland security forces launched an attack on an al-Shabaab base in a mountainous area 30 kilometres east of the port city of Bosaso, Puntland leader Abdiwali Mohamed Ali said at a press conference.
Local residents requesting anonymity said they had seen many bodies from both sides in the area, scene of a fierce battle lasting for more than seven hours. The situation remained tense, with sporadic gunfire still to be heard, said a Puntland senior security officer who asked not to be named.
Al-Shabaab was believed to be trying to regroup in Puntland after coming under pressure from Somali government and African Union troops in the south and centre of the country. The allied troops Wednesday took the town of Adale, about 200 kilometres northeast of Mogadishu, a senior military source said.
Abdukadir Mohamed Nur Siidii, governor of the southern Lower Shabelle province, said up to 500 al-Shabaab fighters have defected to the government side since allied troops launched a major military offensive against the group in August.
Al-Shabaab suffered a major blow when its leader, Ahmed Godane, was killed in a US drone strike in early September. The government then offered an amnesty to members of the group who would surrender within 45 days.
Al-Shabaab seeks to install an Islamist state in the Horn of Africa country.
Puntland leaders declared the north-eastern territory an autonomous state after Somalia’s central government collapsed in 1991. SAPA