Mogadishu, Somalia, Oct 18 – Fighting between Somali troops and Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab fighters was ongoing Tuesday in the key town of Afgoye, some 30 kilometres (18 miles) northwest of the capital Mogadishu, a security source and a witness said.
“There is heavy fighting going on at several bases in Afgoye district and one of the bases was attacked with a car loaded with explosives,” Abdulakir Ahmed, a local security official, told AFP.
A Shabaab statement said the group had recaptured the town, which it evacuated in May 2012 after coming under attack from the Somali army and African Union peacekeepers.
“The Mujahedeen fighters have secured control of Afgoye town after heavy fighting and they put up the Islamic flag over the enemy bases,” said the statement.
“The infidel soldiers who stayed in town have fled” and “tens of the enemy forces have been killed,” it said.
There was no independent confirmation of the reported capture of the town.
Residents said the target of the bomb attack was the local police station.
“There was a suicide car bomb attack targeting the police station and heavy fighting is going on,” said resident Amin Moalim.
He said the town had been taken by surprise and “people are hiding in their houses and those who stayed outside have fled.”
“I saw wounded civilians and Somali soldiers as well,” he added. “We don’t know who is controlling the city so far because heavy exchange of gunfire is going on.”
The Shabaab has fought to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu since 2007, losing control of the capital in 2011 before losing other bastions such as Afgoye.