Many soldiers were killed or captured alive in the attack that took place in Af Urur town in Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region, military officials say. Al Shabab said the attack left 61 soldiers dead.

Al Shabab regularly launches attacks in Somalia, but tends to focus on the capital Mogadishu.
Al Shabab regularly launches attacks in Somalia, but tends to focus on the capital Mogadishu.

Al Shabab rebels killed 38 people, mostly soldiers, in an attack on a military base in Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region on Thursday, an army officer said.

"Now we confirm 38 people, mostly soldiers, died and 18 others wounded. I believe some were captured alive and taken away," Major Mohamed Abdi, a Puntland military officer said.

Numerous, heavily armed al Shabab fighters attacked us from every direction and after hours of fierce battle I was among those who ran for their lives - Major Mohamed Abdi

The assault in Af Urur town came days after Puntland sentenced to death five al Shabab members who were arrested as they drove a vehicle carrying three barrels packed with explosives into Bosaso, Puntland's capital, on April 26.

Af Urur lies about 100km south of Bosaso, near the Galgala hills, an area controlled by al Shabab. Its fighters have attacked and captured the town several times.

Al Shabab disputes casualties

Al Shabab said it had killed 61 soldiers after overrunning the military base. The numbers given by officials and al Shabab often differ.

"They have not retaken the town, but we just left it peacefully after killing 61 soldiers and capturing 16 military cars," said Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabab's military operation spokesman.

Al Shabab regularly launches attacks in Somalia, but tends to focus on the capital Mogadishu and other regions controlled by the federal government. Since 2007, al Shabab has fought to overthrow successive internationally-backed governments in Somalia.

Attacks are comparatively rare in Puntland, where the security forces are relatively regularly paid and receive substantial US assistance.

Source: Reuters