At least 19 Somali civilians killed in Al-Shabab attack – Today 24

Gunmen from the Islamist rebel group Al-Shabab killed at least 19 civilians in an attack last Friday in central Somalia, clan leaders and local officials announced on Saturday.

This attack comes two weeks after an attack by the extremist movement linked to Al-Qaeda, in a hotel in the capital, Mogadishu, which lasted for 30 hours, killing 21 people and wounding 117 others.

According to these sources, at least eight cars, including passenger minibuses and trucks, were intercepted on a road between the towns of Beledweyne and Mexas. It was picked up, burned and its passengers killed on Friday night, Saturday, near the village of Afar Erdoud.

“The terrorists carried out a massacre of innocent civilians traveling…last night,” a tribal leader, Abdullah Hard, told AFP. We don’t know the exact number of victims, but 19 bodies were found.”

The governor of the Hiran region, where the attack took place, said Al-Shabab stopped cars coming from Baldwin and others heading there.

“They killed innocent civilians after intercepting the vehicles,” Ali Jiti told reporters. “Bodies are still being collected, including women and children. It could be more than 20”.

“They set the vehicles on fire…after they were executed,” said Muhammad Abd al-Rahman, another local clan leader. It is a horrific attack the likes of which our region has not witnessed. They were innocent civilians who did nothing to deserve it.”

Al-Shabaab announced in a statement that it targeted fighters from a local clan who aided government forces in their battles against rebels recently.

It said it killed “20 fighters and those who transported equipment to them” and destroyed nine of their vehicles.

Ali Godlawy, president of Hirshabelle state, where the attack took place, issued a statement offering condolences to the relatives of the victims and vowing to continue “operations to cleanse” the al-Shabab area.

His Jubaland counterpart Ahmed Madobe said: “The only way before us is to join hands to fight them and free our country from them. I call on people not to be discouraged.”

The Somali presidency said on Twitter that President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud “strongly condemns the despicable killings of innocent civilians.”

The president stressed that his government will spare no effort to combat terrorism in Somalia and the region.

Al-Shabaab has waged an internationally-backed insurgency against the federal government since 2007.

The movement was expelled from the country’s main cities, including Mogadishu, in 2011, but remains active in vast rural areas and poses a major threat to the authorities.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, elected in mid-May after a political crisis, had promised on August 23 to wage a “total war” to eliminate al-Shabaab, just days after the bloody attack on the Hyatt Hotel in Mogadishu.

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

To help President Mahmoud’s election, US President Joe Biden promised to strengthen the US military presence in Somalia to help local authorities confront Al-Shabaab, after his predecessor, Donald Trump, ordered the withdrawal of most US forces.