Authorities in Somalia’s central region of Hiran say al-Shabab Islamist militants carried out deadly attacks against civilians in the region killing at least 22 people.
The Islamist militant group early Saturday attacked a convoy carrying food in Hiran region, an attack that claimed the lives of civilians, according to Hirshabele state officials who spoke with VOA by phone after the attack.
The attack took place on the road between the region’s capital, Beledwayne, and Mahas district.
Officials say the group attacked a humanitarian convoy killing 17 people, and then targeted civilian rescuers with landmines that killed five others.
In a statement, the Somali government strongly condemned the attack and described it as “barbaric and heinous.”
The government said it stands with the local community and promised to respond strongly to the “brutal” attack.
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the deadly attack and said it had killed 20 local militia in the attack.
Abdurahman Sheikh Azhari, director of the Mogadishu-based Center for Analysis and Strategic Studies, told VOA that the attacks and activities by al-Shabab in the central region are a retaliation against locals who work with the government and regional security forces against al-Shabab in Hiran and Galmudug. He said it is a collective punishment against the local communities used by al-Shabab to stop them from supporting the government.
Mogadishu independent security analyst Abdulkarim Abdulle told VOA that the attack was a response to the local population’s rejection of an al-Shabab peace proposal. He said the attack Friday was intended to make residents accept the proposal by punishing them collectively for the rejection.
Al-Shabab has been waging an insurgency in Somalia since 2007 and has been fighting both the Somali government and African Union peacekeepers in the country.
Last Month, al-Shabab staged a deadly hotel siege in the capital, Mogadishu, that lasted more than 30 hours and killed 21 people and wounded more than 100 others.