Somalia’s largest telecommunications company, Hormuud Telecom, says one of its centers and a telecommunications tower have been destroyed in an explosion in Qaayib, a village in the Galmudug state of Somalia.
The company said a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) destroyed the center and tower on Monday.
“It’s with great sadness to inform our customers that a VBIED attack destroyed our site in Qaayib, a village in Galgudud region today,” the company said in a tweet. Galgudud is a region within the larger Galmudug State.
The company said thousands of residents have lost access to its mobile money platform known as Electronic Voucher Card, or EVC Plus, a widely used payment form in a country where bank notes are disappearing.
“Almost 14,000 people lost access to the company’s services including EVC Plus, the only payment method in the area,” Hormuud Telecom tweeted.
It vowed to rebuild the center and restore telecommunication services in the area.
On Monday, al-Shabab’s military wing said in a statement published by one of the websites used by the group that it had attacked government forces in Qaayib that morning. The statement also said the attack started with a suicide bombing that was followed by an armed infantry attack on the military camp. The group claimed it killed 37 people, including three officers, a figure that has not been independently verified.
Somali government officials confirmed that the militants used a truck bomb, adding that troops defeated the militants who attacked the Qaayib base.
Major Mohamed Farah, a military officer in the nearby town of Bahdo, told Reuters that 10 soldiers and 20 al-Shabab militants were killed in the fighting.
Galmudug state Information Minister Ahmed Shire Falagle told VOA Somali that the militants lost Qaayib a week ago and wanted to retake it but were “chased away.”
Falagle said civilians and nomads have been hurt in the attack, but he did not specify casualty figures.
In Galmudug and neighboring Hirshabelle state, residents have been accusing al-Shabab of destroying wells and telecommunication centers as punishment for supporting the ongoing government offensive against the militants.
The militant group has been trying for more than 15 years to topple the internationally recognized Somali government. The current government said it is exercising a new strategy to fight the group militarily as well as economically. In addition to the military offensive in conjunction with local militias, the government has been pressuring local businesses to stop extortion payments to al-Shabab, which helps fund their attacks.
And in an apparent spiritual war against al-Shabab, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Endowment this week issued a directive instructing that al-Shabab should not be called anything other than “Khawarij,” a term that essentially means “deviant sect.”
The ministry also banned religious scholars from having any dealings with the group.
Abdiwahid Moalim Ishaq contributed to this report.