Somalia army, allied militia kill 20 al Shabaab fighters in latest offensive

MOGADISHU, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Somalia's army and associated clan militias have killed at least 20 al Shabaab fighters in towns in the centre of the country, a regional official and the Information Ministry said on Wednesday, in the latest onslaught against the group.

Ahmed Shire Falagle, information minister for regional Galmudug state, said that in the ensuing clash between the two groups, the army and the militias also captured El Gorof and Wabho, towns which had been in al Shabaab control for almost 10 years.

"There was no fierce fighting. Al Shabaab was chased and pursued. Al Shabaab ran away, leaving weapons and at least 20 dead fighters," he told Reuters.

"We are determined to liberate all the towns which are controlled by al Shabaab. As we pursued them, six of our soldiers were wounded."

Falagle said he believed al Shabaab fighters had carried away some of their dead fighters.

The central government's ministry of information said in a statement that the number of dead al Shabaab fighters stood at 50.

The group was not immediately reachable for comment.

Al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab has been under pressure since August, when President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud began an offensive against them, supported by the United States and clan militias known locally known as macawisley, or "men with sarongs".

The group has killed tens of thousands since 2006 in its fight to overthrow Somalia's central government and implement its interpretation of Islamic law.

On last Monday, al Shabaab fighters attacked a military base in the same region, killing at least 10 soldiers, while the group took responsibility for twin bomb attacks in the Somali capital in late October.

Reporting by Abdi Sheikh; writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Leslie Adler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.