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A Somali Army base on the Kenyan border briefly overrun by Al-Shabaab

Using its usual tactics of detonating a suicide car bomb and then trying to storm the base, Al-Shabaab briefly overran a Somali army base a few kilometers outside the town of Bulo Hawa in Gedo region on Monday (September 11). A vehicle-borne improvised bomb exploded at the entrance to the main military post, followed by a coordinated attack by militants from several directions. Al-Shabaab fighters also detonated explosions at the police station and government offices before looting shops and destroying buildings in the Bulo Hawa town.

The first attack targeted the military base, a few kilometers outside the town and then after the troops were forced to evacuate their wounded and fall back, Al-Shabaab attacked the town itself. They detonated explosives at the main police station, and then targeted the town's district headquarters as well as detonating explosives at the mayor's office. Al-Shabaab stole vehicles and weapons before withdrawing as the government forces, with Kenyan support, advanced back to the town. Al-Shabaab later claimed they had released 35 prisoners from jail. According to the police, the prisoners were released at the beginning of the attack to prevent them being killed by Al-Shabaab.

Bulo Hawa is only a few kilometers from the Kenyan border town of Mandera, and Kenyan security forces at Mandera, just four kilometers away, were put on standby alert as soon at they heard the sound of explosions and gunshots from the Somalia side of the border in the early hours of the morning. Bulo Hawa residents said there had been fierce fighting before the army units had been forced out of the base. Kenya's North Eastern Regional Coordinator Mohamud Saleh said they had feared there would be a spillover into Kenyan territory. The Kenyan official said later the town had been "badly destroyed and looted by the terrorists," adding that Al-Shabaab had "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." He noted that seven Somali troops were in hospital in Mandera.

While the fighting was going on, Kenyan troops provided artillery support for the Somali forces and launched military helicopters to provide bombardment of Al-Shabaab positions. With Kenyan support, the Somali government forces rapidly regained control of the town within a few hours. Somalia army officials said on Tuesday that they were back in full control of the town.  One officer said: "We managed to chase the militants out of the town. We lost some of our soldiers but we also killed a number of their fighters while others escaped with injuries."