Brigadier General Mohamed Tahlil Bihi, a military infantry commander, said at least 76 militants were killed Saturday when al-Shabab launched a pre-dawn attack on two Somali National Army bases in the towns of Bariire and Awdhegle in Lower Shabelle region, southwestern Somalia.
Bihi also said the army troops had captured 10 other militants during the fierce fighting between the terrorist group and the military.
The military commander provided no details on losses suffered by the army.
Witnesses in Awdhegle confirmed the report and said Somali troops had repelled the militants after around an hour of heavy fighting.
“Shabab gunmen used a vehicle loaded with explosives to launch the attack, but they failed to enter the camp after nearly an hour of exchanging machine gun fire with the Somali troops,” town resident Mohamed Ali was quoted as saying by AFP.
“I saw several dead bodies of the Shabab gunmen near the camp where the fighting occurred; the Somali soldiers paraded these bodies after the fighting.”
“We heard a heavy explosion caused by a suicide bomber ramming a car at the entrance to the base and a heavy exchange of gunfire followed,” said resident Abdirahim Malin.
“A few minutes later the militant fighters managed to enter the camp and torched some military supplies belonging to the Somali army.”
Somali government forces have been battling al-Shabab militants since 2006.
The militants controlled Mogadishu between 2007 and 2011, when they were driven out of the Somali capital with help from African Union (AU) peacekeeping forces. A period of relative calm started in Mogadishu afterward.
Al-Shabab militants, however, still retain a significant presence, reportedly roaming freely and posing a threat in regions outside the capital where the central government has little control.
The group launches regular attacks on government, military and civilian targets.
The country is now beset by the growing threat of Daesh as the Takfiri terrorist group is seeking to find a new foothold after being vanquished from Iraq and much of Syria.