Al-Shabaab kills at least 19 Somali civilians

Al-Shabaab kills at least 19 Somali civilians

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Fighters from the Islamist rebel group Al-Shabaab have killed at least 19 civilians in a night attack in central Somalia, clan chiefs and local officials said on Saturday.

The attack comes two weeks after al-Shabaab, which has led a long insurgency against the Somali state, besieged a hotel in the capital Mogadishu for 30 hours, killing 21 and wounding 117.

The sources said at least eight vehicles were traveling on a road between the towns of Beledweyne and Maxaas when insurgents intercepted and burned them, killing passengers near the village of Afar-Irdood overnight Friday.

“The terrorists massacred innocent civilians who were out and about last night.

“The bodies are still being collected, including women and children. It could be more than 20,” said Ali Jeyte, the governor of the Hiiraan region where the attack took place.

“This was a horrific attack that has never happened in our region. These were innocent civilians who did nothing to deserve this,” added another local clan leader, Mohamed Abdirahman.

Al-Shabaab said in a statement they targeted fighters from a local sub-clan that recently aided government forces and killed 20 “militiamen and those transporting materials for them” and destroyed nine of their vehicles.

Local fighters and security forces recaptured several al-Shabaab villages in the region in late August.

Ali Gudlawe, President of Hirshabelle State, where the attack took place, released a statement expressing condolences to the families of the victims and promising to continue “operations to clean up” the Al-Shabaab region.

“The only way we have is to fight together and rid our country of them. I urge society not to be discouraged,” said his Jubaland state counterpart Ahmed Madobe.

– ‘Total war’ –

The al-Qaeda-affiliated group has been fighting Somalia’s internationally-backed federal government since 2007.

It was driven out of the country’s main cities, including Mogadishu, in 2011, but remains a serious security threat across much of the country.

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, elected in May after a protracted political crisis, vowed to wage an “all-out war” to eliminate al-Shabaab following the Mogadishu hotel attack.

The bloody siege drew international condemnation from partners including the United States, Britain, Turkey and the United Nations.

After Mohamud’s election, President Joe Biden said he would restore a US military presence in Somalia to fight al-Shabaab.

The Pentagon recommended the move because it considered Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump’s rotation system too risky and ineffective.

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