The Somali Ministry of Information said that its forces killed about 100 members of the "Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen Movement" in the El-Tir area, located between the regions of Middle Shabelle and Hiran.

Abdul Rahman Youssef, Deputy Minister of Information, said - in a press conference held in the capital, Mogadishu - that this operation was carried out in coordination with the intelligence and what he called the international partners in the fight against terrorism.

"The operation targeted a gathering of about 200 al-Shabaab fighters, including 12 leaders, who were preparing to launch an attack on areas that (the movement) lost last week," he added.

The deputy information minister stated that the operation resulted in the death of "100 al-Shabaab fighters, including 10 leaders," in addition to "destroying military equipment and confiscating military vehicles belonging to the movement."

He pointed out that the army units - in cooperation with the local population - were able to recover the town of "Eil Teir" from the grip of the movement.

The Somali official stated that the town constitutes a strategic location for the movement of Al-Shabaab fighters between the regions of Middle Shabelle and Hiran.

Pictures published by local media show the "great" damage caused by air strikes in the town, during the military operation, last night.

On the other hand, Youssef welcomed the increase in the number of fighters who "defected from the movement" and surrendered to the government army since the start of military operations last August, without mentioning their number.

Government forces, in cooperation with tribal militias, continue military operations against Al-Shabab, during which they killed dozens of the movement's members and regained control over many areas.

The government has been engaged for 3 months in a "total war" against Al-Shabaab, adopting a new strategy that appears long and risky, despite the recent military gains.

With the support of US air strikes and logistical and artillery support from the African Union force (ATMIS), government forces regained control of Hiran province and large areas of Middle Shabelle.

Al-Shabaab denies

For its part, the Al-Shabaab movement admitted targeting the area, and said that the government's announcement of the death of 100 of its fighters is untrue, as it put it.

Yesterday, Friday, the Al-Shabaab movement launched an attack on a military base in the central region of Galgaduud, which led to violent clashes after the army and its allied clans tried to repel the attack.

This attack - which occurred in the early morning - yesterday in the village of Qaib, and included the use of car bombs, came after government forces achieved a number of victories in the fight against the movement, over the past three months, reclaiming lands with the help of armed clans.

Ahmed Sher Valajel, Minister of Information in Galgaduud, said that the government forces thwarted the attack and took control of Qaib, but Al-Shabaab spokesman Abdel Aziz Abu Musab denied this, and said that his fighters took control of Qaib, killed soldiers and seized military vehicles.

He also acknowledged that there were casualties among the youth as a result of the attack.

This movement, linked to al-Qaeda, controls swathes of Somalia, and lost the village of Qaib, which was captured by government forces a few weeks ago.