The Al-Shabaab terrorist group stormed several towns in south-western Somalia along the border with Ethiopia, a security official confirmed on Thursday, fearing heavy losses in the ensuing clashes with security forces from both sides, Anadolu News Agency reports.
Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab militants attacked the towns of Aato, Yeed, and Washaqo in the province of Bakool, which has been blockaded by the group for more than a decade.
The terrorists attacked the towns from various directions late on Wednesday, and heavy fighting between local troops, backed by Ethiopian police, continued for hours, a security official in the region told Anadolu Agency on the condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
Security forces thwarted the terrorist assaults, he said, acknowledging heavy casualties on both sides.
The fighting continued in some areas on Thursday, said another official from the region by phone, also requesting anonymity.
Somalia's Prime Minister, Hamza Abdi Barre, who spoke with President Abdiaziz Laftagareen of Bakool, later announced on his official Twitter account that he ordered all security agencies to respond quickly to the matter and provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by the fighting and the Al-Shabaab blockade.
Hamza, on Wednesday, vowed to launch an offensive against Al-Shabaab terrorists and asked the African Union to join forces in combating transnational terrorism on the continent and beyond.