Mogadishu (HOL) – Al Shabab militants killed 12 civilians drilling a well in drought-ravaged southern Somalia on Friday.
The attack occurred in Gariley village between Bardhere and Eelwak districts in the Gedo region when the militants attacked the crew at its work site, burning their bodies and drilling equipment, said Mahad Abdi, a local resident who visited the scene and counted the bodies.
The area is suffering from the Horn of Africa’s worst drought in 40 years, leading the United Nations to warn of a looming famine.
Mahmoud Abdel Warsame, the mayor of Gariley, confirmed the death toll and said security forces also killed six al-Shabab fighters.
The reason for killing innocent civilians is unknown, but it comes just days after government forces killed several militants in a security operation in the Gedo region.
Al-Shabab has in recent weeks burned houses, destroyed wells and beheaded civilians in other parts of central and southern Somalia, residents say.
The attacks, and the group’s demands for tax payments despite the drought, have pushed some residents to take up arms against al-Shabab.
On 18 September, al Shabab militants burned down several houses and destroyed a water well in the small village of El-Jiqow in the Mahas district of the Hiiraan region.
Al Shabaab regularly destroys homes and wells as part of its scorched earth tactic when pushed out of an area.