Terror in Somalia as al-Shabab slaughter scores at base
Al-Shabab militants stormed a military base in Somalia's semi-autonomous state of Puntland, leaving 70 dead and many more injured according to officials.
Civilians - including women - were beheaded during the rampage, which has been one of the deadliest extremist attacks in years.
It comes as Somali forces face a two-front assault from al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab and militants linked to the Islamic State group.
The assault began with a blast at the remote Af-Urur camp - roughly 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of the commercial hub of Bossaso - before the extremists overran the base.
Soldiers were killed at close range, Ahmed Mohamed, a senior military official, told AFP.
Close to 70 people were killed, though an exact death toll was not yet available, Mohammed said. Puntland's Interior Minister Abdi Hersi Ali confirmed to AFP that the army suffered casualties but did not give a number of dead.
Residents in the area reported chaotic scenes, with fighters beheading several civilians they encountered. One witness, Abdibasit Hassan, said women were among those beheaded.
"The situation is grim over there. This attack was an unexpected one," Mohammed said. The extremists, including suicide bombers, reportedly attacked the base from three directions, forcing soldiers to retreat.
A senior military official, told AP that reinforcement troops reached the area and drove out the some 100 fighters involved in the attack.
Al-Shabab said fighters killed 61 troops in the assault, while SITE Intelligence group said the militants took weapons and ammunition and more than a dozen military vehicles.
Puntland in northern Somalia also faces a growing threat from IS-linked fighters who have split from al-Shabab, which grew out of the Horn of Africa country's quarter-century of chaos.
Al-Shabab last year became the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa, with more than 4,200 people killed in 2016, according to the Washington-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies.