Somali militants kill soldiers, kidnap scores of elders

Al-Shabab Islamist militants

Officials on Thursday said gunmen from Somalia’s Al Shabaab group killed six people including at least four soldiers in the streets of the capital, a day after the Islamist movement kidnapped scores of elders in a central region.

Police said the militants drove up to a tuk-tuk vehicle carrying the soldiers in Mogadishu’s Karan district and opened fire, killing all four of them on Tuesday.

“We heard the gunfire and we rushed to the scene but … the killers escaped,” police captain Farah Aden told Reuters.

He said Al Shabaab fighters also shot two people dead in the Wardigley district in the heart of the city.

The militants said the two were an officer and his bodyguard, in a statement claiming responsibility for both attacks.

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Abdiasis Musab, al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, said the militants also set off a car bomb that seriously injured a man working for the finance ministry.

There was no immediate comment from the authorities.

Al Shabaab, which is fighting to impose its form of Islam and topple the Western-backed government, has launched regular guerrilla attacks across the country since the army backed by African peacekeepers pushed it out of the capital in 2011.

Officials said, on Monday, the group kidnapped more than 60 elders from Galgadud, in the central, semi-autonomous state of Galmudug.

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Al Shabaab said it took the local leaders because their sub-clan had refused to pay full compensation for five people killed from another clan.

“We do not want the two clans to fight again,” said Abdullahi Abu Khalid, named as al Shabaab’s governor for Galgadud.

The militant group has kept up a presence in remote parts of Somalia, many of them already riven by years of ethnic rivalries and blood feuds.

Some clans are seen as linked to the militants, others to the government.

Galmudug’s president, Ahmed Haaf, said the militants had kidnapped 62 elders in a bid to destabilise his region.

“They will either kill them or order them to spread chaos,” he said.

He accused the central government in Mogadishu of not giving enough resources or troops to protect the region.

Somalia has been gripped by violence and lawlessness since dictator Siad Barre was toppled in 1991.

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