Al-Qaeda-linked fighters also destroyed trucks loaded with food aid in the deadly assault in Hiran region.
Al-Shabab fighters have killed at least 18 civilians and destroyed trucks loaded with food aid in an overnight attack in Somalia’s central region.
The armed group launched the attack in the Hiran area in the semi-autonomous state of Hirshabelle in central Somalia. The trucks were transporting food supplies from Baladweyne city to Mahas town, residents said on Saturday.
“Al-Shabab killed 18 civilians and burned … several trucks of relief food heading to Mahas town last night,” said Farah Aden, a local elder.
State news agency Sonna reported that al-Shabab fighters set fire to the trucks and “killed most of the people on board the vehicles”.
Aden said armed residents chased the attackers from the area last week but the government did not send troops to help prevent them from returning.
“Al-Shabab is doing all these things in order to make us surrender. But we shall never surrender to al-Shabab as long as there is soul in us. Government forces have not reached the scene yet,” Aden said.
The al-Qaeda-linked group has battled Somalia’s central government for more than a decade. It wants to establish its own rule based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law.
The group frequently launches bombings, gun assaults and other attacks on both military and civilian targets.
Last month more than 20 people were killed in an attack in which al-Shabab fighters stormed the Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu, triggering a 30-hour battle as government troops sought to end the siege and free hostages.