(AP) — Somali state media and residents say the extremist group al-Shabab killed at least 20 people and burned seven vehicles transporting food in the Hiran region Saturday morning, and the government’s drought envoy called it “devastating” for communities in the grip of a severe drought.
Residents said the attack was in retaliation for a local mobilization against the al-Qaida-affiliated group that holds significant parts of central and southern Somalia. The extremist group’s presence complicates an already challenging response to the drought that has killed thousands of people. Some areas are on the brink of famine.
Drought envoy Abdirahman Abdishakur noted that al-Shabab also had blown up wells for water in Hiran in recent days.
“The victims were drivers and passengers transporting food supplies from Beletweyne to Mahas and a total of seven trucks carrying food and vehicles used by the passengers were set ablaze,” resident Hassan Abdulle told The Associated Press by phone.
The attack came a day after government forces destroyed landmines that al-Shabab had planted on the busy road connecting Beletweyne and Mataban with the intent to target travelers.
Al-Shabab confirmed the attack and claimed to have killed 20 locally mobilized militia members.
The Somali government has condemned the “barbaric” attack and reiterated its support for local mobilization against the extremist group.