MANDERA, Kenya, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) — Somalia government forces have regained control of Bulla Hawa town which is on the border with Kenya after Al-Shabaab militants overran the military base on Monday, officials confirmed on Tuesday.
Al-Shabaab militants who claimed to have killed 24 Somali soldiers detonated a suicide car bomb and then stormed the military base in Bulla Hawa town, forcing the Somalia National Army (SNA) soldiers to seek refuge in Kenya.
Kenya’s northeastern regional coordinator Mohamud Saleh confirmed Tuesday that the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) escorted SNA back to Bulla Hawa town Monday evening hours after Al-Shabaab had attacked the place and destroyed property.
“Our troops took them back and they are now in charge of the town. It was badly destroyed and looted by the terrorists,” Saleh said.
Saleh said out of the 180 soldiers who escaped to Mandera town after the attack, only seven remain in hospitals with injuries following the attack.
Saleh said the terrorists attacked a military base and police station that are near the Kenyan border. Security sources said at least ten soldiers were killed in the raid in the battle.
“They destroyed government offices and looted shops as they escaped the town. The militants also blew up the police station and a phone mast, before retreating,” said Saleh.
Bulla Hawa residents said the militants launched two attacks with the first assault targeting Somali military base outside Bulla Hawa while the second on police station.
The residents said the militants detonated suicide car bombs on both targets amid fierce fighting between the insurgents and the Somalia army.
Somalia army officials also confirmed Tuesday they are in control of the border town after chasing the insurgents who had occupied the town briefly.
“We are firmly in control of the Bulla Hawa town. We managed to chase the militants out of town. We lost some of our soldiers but we also killed a number of their (Al-Shabaab fighters) while others escaped with injuries,” the army officer said.
Al-Shabaab, which is fighting to topple the current government, has carried out a spate of attacks in Somalia and Kenya since launching an insurgency more than a decade ago.
The assault shows that the Al-Qaida allied group remains a dangerous force, despite losing territory to the AU force and some of its top commanders being killed in US air strikes.
During the fierce gun battle with the militants, Kenyan soldiers came to the help of their Somalia counterparts in Bulla Hawa by bombing various positions that Al-Shabaab militants had taken over.
Witnesses said the militants withdrew and escaped amid heavy bombardment from the KDF choppers that hovered there minutes after the attack.
Saleh said the escaping soldiers came with their equipment and vehicles before they were disarmed and processed and later returned to their positions.
Security agents were put on standby to act over fears of spillover from the Al-Shabaab attack.