Somalia's al Shabaab Islamist group rammed a military base with a suicide truck bomb, shot dead an intelligence officer and killed 12 people in a Kenyan border town in a series of strikes over 24 hours, the militants said on Tuesday.
The group, which once ruled much of Somalia, wants to topple the Western-backed government in Mogadishu and drive out African AMISOM peacekeepers made up of soldiers from Kenya, Djibouti, Uganda, Ethiopia and other African nations. AMISOM has been battling the rebels in support of the Somali government.
The attacks mark the build up to elections in coming weeks for the Somali parliament, which will in turn pick a new president to continue slow reconstruction efforts in a nation racked by more than two decades of conflict.
A Shabaab suicide bomber rammed a vehicle loaded with explosives into an African Union military base in central Somalia on Tuesday, a security official said. The explosion was followed by heavy gunfire at the Djiboutian base in the city of Beledweyne.
Witness Ismail Mahad described seeing "clouds of smoke caused by the heavy blast" followed by "exchange of gunfire at the Djiboutian camp".
The Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab militant group said, via its Radio Andalus media organisation, that it was responsible for the attack, claiming "the death and injury of many soldiers".[caption id="attachment_24731" align="aligncenter" width="800"] EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / Residents look inside the wreckage of a car bomb outside Banadir beach restaurant in the capital Mogadishu on August 26, 2016 AFP[/caption]
A bomb blast at a guesthouse in northeast Kenya killed at least 12 people on Tuesday, the same area hit earlier this month by Shabaab militants, police said. "We have found 12 bodies so far after we managed to access the building," he added.
This is the second attack in Mandera in under a month, the previous one on October 6 was claimed by the Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab group.
Six people were killed in that strike, which targeted a gated residential building that mainly housed non-ethnic Somalis and non-Muslims, less than a kilometre from the volatile Somalia border town of Beled Hawa.
Gunmen from al Shabaab militant group shot dead a senior intelligence officer as he walked to a mosque in Mogadishu late on Monday, police and the group said.
Colonel Abdiasis Araye was killed in the capital's Waberi district, police officer Ismail Hussein told Reuters. "We reached the scene but the militants had already escaped," Hussein added.
Al Shabaab launches regular attacks in Mogadishu in its bid to topple Somalia's Western-backed government and impose its version of Islam. Al Shabaab's spokesman for military operations, Abdiasis Abu Musab, said the group killed Colonel Araye.[caption id="attachment_24732" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Members of the Somalian military forces stand at the site of a suicide car bomb attack, which killed a top Somalia general along with four of his security guards, near Gashandhiga compound, south of Mogadsihu, on September 18, 2016 AFP[/caption]
Fighters from the al Shabaab group said Sunday they had retaken control of a town in central Somalia after hundreds of Ethiopian troops serving with the African Union's AMISOM force withdrew. It was the third time this month that the Islamist group moved into a town in the region after the departure of Ethiopian forces.
Al-Shabaab said on the smartphone app Telegram that their fighters had "stormed the town of Halgan soon after the enemy pulled out" on Sunday.
"The brave fighters of Islam have taken full control of the town, the Islamic flag is waving over the station and the district headquarters," the statement added.
After leaving Halgan together with Somali army soldiers, situated at a key junction on the road to the capital Mogadishu, the Ethiopian troops headed towards the provincial capital, Beledweyne, according to several sources.
"The Ethiopian soldiers pulled out of Halgan town this (Sunday) morning. We are getting (reports) that they have destroyed their bases and trenches around the town before heading for Beledweyne," said Mohamed Nur Adan, a security official in Beledweyne.
"The Ethiopian soldiers vacated their bases this morning, we saw them heading towards Beledweyne. There were tanks and big trucks in their convoy," witness Osman Adan told AFP by phone.
Halgan, situated about 70 kilometres from Beledweyne, came under assault from the Shabaab in June.
The Islamists then attacked the Ethiopian army base with a suicide car bomber and gunmen. Scores were reported killed on both sides, however casualty numbers are impossible to verify.
The fall of Halgan is likely to increase pressure and attacks on AMISOM forces in Buloburde, which is the second largest town in the central Hiran region.
Earlier this month hundreds of Ethiopian troops pulled out of El-Ali -- also in the Hiran region -- after also withdrawing from nearby Moqokori.
Shabaab forces moved back in to both towns after the Ethiopians left.
No explanation has been given by the Ethiopian military or AMISOM.
The Shabaab was forced out of the capital, Mogadishu, five years ago but continues to carry out regular attacks on military, government and civilian targets in its battle to overthrow the internationally-backed administration.