At least 19 civilians were killed in an attack by radical Al-Shabaab Islamists on a road in central Somalia overnight from Friday to Saturday, clan leaders and local officials said on Saturday.
According to these sources, at least eight vehicles – passenger minibuses and trucks – traveling on a road between the towns of Beledweyne and Maxaas were intercepted, grouped together then burned, and their passengers killed, at the level of the village of Afar-Irdood. “Terrorists massacred innocent civilians traveling… last night. We do not have the exact number of victims, but 19 corpses were collected. The attackers abducted several other people whose fate remains unknownAbdulahi Hared, a chieftain from Beledweyne, told AFP.
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This attack comes two weeks after a spectacular assault led by Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab on a hotel in the capital Mogadishu, which left at least 21 dead and 117 injured.
According to the governor of the Hiiraan region where the attack occurred, the Al-Shabaab stopped both vehicles coming from Beledweyne and others going there. “They massacred innocent civilians after intercepting the vehicles (…) The corpses are still being picked up, including women and children. They could be more than twentyAli Jeyte told reporters. “They set fire to the vehicles (..) after executing them. This is a horrific attack that has never happened in our region. They were innocent civilians who did nothing to deserve thissaid Mohamed Abdirahman, another local clan leader.
Al-Shabaab announced in a statement that it had targeted fighters from a local sub-clan who had recently helped government forces fight them. They claim to havekilled 20 militiamen and those transporting equipment for them“and destroyed”eight of their vehicles“.
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At the end of August, security forces and local fighters recaptured several villages in this region from Shebab. The Shebab have been leading an insurgency against the federal government since 2007, supported by the international community. They were driven out of the main cities of the country, including Mogadishu in 2011, but remain entrenched in large rural areas and remain a major threat to the authorities.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, elected in mid-May, promised August 23 “total warto eliminate the shebab, a few days after the bloody attack against a hotel in Mogadishu, the Hayat hotel.