Somalia's al Shabaab recaptures base it lost to military offensive
MOGADISHU, March 7 (Reuters) - Fighters from Somalia's al Shabaab Islamist group on Tuesday overran a military base in the southern Jubbaland region that they had lost to the army in January, a Somali officer and a local resident said.
Al Shabaab, an affiliate of al Qaeda, has come under intense pressure from the military and allied clan-based militias, who launched a major offensive last year. But the group has repeatedly shown its ability to strike back with major attacks.
There has been no fighting in the past week, fuelling speculation in Somalia that the offensive has stalled. The government said it was merely observing a pause before launching the next phase of operations.
Al Shabaab attacked the base in Janay Abdale, about 60 km (37 miles) to the west of the port city of Kismayu, early in the morning with a car bomb and gunfire, Major Abdullahi Hussein told Reuters from Kismayu.
He said al Shabaab had cut communications in the area and that the army had sent reinforcements.
The Jubbaland government said regional and national forces had inflicted a "big blow" on al Shabaab but did not provide details. Casualty figures were not immediately available for either side.
Halima Osman said her husband, who survived the attack and managed to get out of the base, had called her with a colleague's phone.
"He told me they ran into the bush after the bombing and fierce fighting killed many of his friends and the military vehicles were burnt," she told Reuters.
Al Shabaab confirmed it was behind the attack. "We control the base. We took all their weapons," it said in a statement.
Forces from Jubbaland had wrested control of Janay Abdale from al Shabaab in January as part of the offensive which first began in the centre of Somalia before spreading south.
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