Dozens have been killed in Somalia after Shebab gunmen ambushed an army convoy, officials and local elders said Thursday, the latest battles with the Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents.
Shebab fighters launched attacks on the army convoy near the village of Tulo-Barwao in the southwestern Gedo district of Somalia on Wednesday, a region bordering Ethiopia and Kenya, sparking intense gun battles.
Government officials put the toll at 32 Shebab and 11 government soldiers killed, while the Shebab said the only casualties were 19 government troops. Local elder Abdulahi Halane said around 30 people were killed in total.
It was not possible to independently verify the toll.
"The fighting was very heavy and 32 enemy Shebab fighters, including senior commanders, were killed," said Nur Mohamud Burale, a local government official. "We lost 11 soldiers, and 16 others were wounded."
Shebab militants claimed responsibility for the attack.
"Mujahedeen fighters carried out a successful ambush against a military convoy transporting senior apostate officials, killing 19," the Shebab said.
The Shebab is fighting to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu, and still controls large parts of the rural south. The fighters launch regular attacks even in the heart of government areas in the capital.
Government and African Union troops last month launched a fresh offensive targeting Shebab strongholds in southern Somalia.