Somali forces on Thursday killed nine al-Shabaab terrorists as they thwarted an attack on the country’s strategic town of Balad, state media and officials said.

“The Somali National Army (SNA) has killed at least nine Al-Shabaab terrorists in an ambush in parts of Bal’ad district in Middle Shabelle region this morning,” Somali National News Agency (SONNA) reported citing a senior military official.

Two Somali soldiers were killed and several others were wounded in the pre-dawn attack, the official said.

Heavy weapons were used in the attack and five civilians were killed, Ibrahim Said, a local administrator in the Middle Shabelle region told Anadolu Agency over the phone.

The target of the attack was road construction machinery stored at a site in the town, said officials who spoke to Anadolu Agency.

A 90-kilometer (56-mile) road is under construction in the agriculture town located on the outskirts of the capital Mogadishu.

The Al-Shabaab militant group, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it had killed four soldiers and wounded three others.

The armed group has been fighting the state to impose Islamic law for more than a decade.

Earlier this year, 12 soldiers and two civilians were killed and several others injured when a bomb targeted a vehicle carrying military personnel near Balad.

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