MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Islamist insurgents killed five government soldiers while briefly seizing a strategic town in central Somalia late Thursday, police and residents said.
A police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said several military vehicles were also destroyed in Belet Weyne, the provincial capital of the central Somali region of Hiraan, 200 miles north of Mogadishu.
Belet Weyne is near a critical road junction that links Somalia to the border with Ethiopia, the governments ally. Hundreds of troops are stationed at the junction, which is also Ethiopia’s main supply route.
"They launched a surprise attack on the town from different directions, facing pockets of resistance from government forces and immediately took the control of the police station, the prison and a hotel government regional officials were using," the officer said.
The town’s police chief, Col. Abdi Aden, confirmed that five government soldiers had been killed and several military vehicles destroyed.