Islamist Militants Step Up Somalia Attacks With Blast, Town Raid

(Bloomberg) -- Islamist militants raided a Somali town and battled African Union troops while an explosion killed two people near a national army camp, the latest in a wave of attacks by an al-Qaeda-linked group.

Al-Shabaab fighters attacked Balad town in the Middle Shabelle region on Friday, using rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, local police officer Ahmed Mohamud said by phone. Fadumo Alasow, a resident, said she saw armored vehicles burning and dozens of prisoners released from the local jail.

A spokesman for the African Union mission, Wilson Rono, said its troops were attacked in Balad and nearby Gololey “several times today” by al-Shabaab, but that he had no details on casualties. Radio Andalus, a broadcaster that supports al-Shabaab, claimed at least 10 soldiers were killed. There were no independent reports on fatalities.

Elsewhere, the driver and one other person were killed and four injured when vigilantes shot at an explosives-laden minibus approaching a military camp at Afgoye, about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) from the capital, Mogadishu, according to district head of police Abdi Ibrahim Shamow.

Al-Shabaab has waged an insurgency in Somalia since 2006 to impose its version of Islamic law. Friday’s violence comes after fatal clashes between the militants and African Union and Somali troops in a southwestern town earlier this week and Feb. 23 twin blasts in Mogadishu that killed more than 20 people.

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