Mogadishu: Islamist extremists attacked an army post in northeastern Somalia, killing 12 soldiers in one of the deadliest attacks in recent months by the al-Qaeda-linked group, al-Shabaab, an official said on Wednesday. (Agencies)
The attack occurred in Galgala Mountains, in the semi autonomous Puntland region, where the al-Shabaab rebels are trying to expand their influence.
The militants attacked the post and blew up a roadside bomb on Tuesday night, killing the soldiers, said a Puntland official, who insisted on anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the press.
Al-Shabaab rebels have been pushed out of the cities of southern and central Somalia by African Union forces. The Somali government says the militants are consolidating in Galgala.
The rebels' northern flight to the Galgala Mountain comes after months of increasing pressure from the African Union force, made up of troops from Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia and Kenya.
Al-Shabaab this year merged with a Puntland warlord Mohamed Said Atom and clashed with government forces in Puntland several times. Al-Qaida and al-Shabab the most powerful Islamist militant group in Somalia merged earlier this year.
Galgala is an ancient mountain town in Puntland has been a key rebel stronghold for years. Fighters led by former arms trader Atom have been fighting the Puntland government from bases in the mountains for years.
A 2010 report by the UN accused Atom of importing arms from Yemen and receiving consignments from Eritrea, including mortars, for delivery to al-Shabaab forces in southern Somalia.
Atom's supporters say he is fighting for more equitable distribution of revenues from oil exploration deals with foreign companies.
Puntland authorities have long blamed Atom's group and al-Shabaab for carrying out bombings and assassinations in their region, but outright assaults on government positions have been rare.
Al-Shabaab relies on several hundred foreign fighters some with experience in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al-Shabaab formally joined al-Qaeda earlier this year, and seeks to recruit new soldiers from Somali communities overseas.
Mogadishu: Islamist extremists attacked an army post in northeastern Somalia, killing 12 soldiers in one of the deadliest attacks in recent months by the al-Qaeda-linked group, al-Shabaab, an official said on Wednesday.