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MOGADISHU/NAIROBI: Nine Somali soldiers, including two generals, were killed on Thursday by a blast just outside the capital Mogadishu, militants and an army official said.

Islamist group Al Shabaab claimed responsibility, saying it had destroyed a military pick-up truck carrying the generals and their seven bodyguards near Dhanaane village just outside Mogadishu on Thursday afternoon.

Abdiasis Abu Musab, Al Shabaab’s military operation spokesman, identified the slain generals as Omar Aden and Abdi Ali.

“We destroyed their pick-up with a roadside bomb near Dhanaane village,” he said.

A military official who identified himself as Captain Mohamed confirmed the two generals and their guards had been killed while others were injured.

Al Shabaab has for years been fighting to topple Somalia’s Western-backed central government.

The country has been gripped by insecurity and lawlessness since the early 1990s.

--Bloody rivalry erupts between Al Shabab, IS groupA bloody rivalry has emerged between extremist groups in Somalia as the Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabab hunts upstart fighters allied to the militant Islamic State group, who have begun demanding protection payments from major businesses, officials said.

The rivalry supports some observers’ suspicions that Al Shabab, now scrambling to defend its monopoly on the mafia-style extortion racket that funds its high-profile attacks, is drifting from its long-declared goal of establishing a strict Islamic state.

The manhunt began in October with the killing of a top leader of the IS-linked group by a suspected Al Shabab death squad in the capital, Mogadishu, according to several Somali intelligence officials.

When the body of Mahad Maalin, deputy leader of the IS-affiliated group, was found near a beach in Mogadishu, it set off a hunt for suspected IS sympathisers within Al Shabab’s ranks, officials said. Maalin had been suspected of trying to extend his group’s reach into the capital.

Last month, the IS group’s Al Naba newsletter noted deadly attacks on its fighters in Somalia and warned that “when the time of response comes from the IS, with God’s will, we will be excused.” The IS-affiliated group in Somalia, largely made up of Al Shabab defectors, first announced its presence in 2016 with attacks in the far north, far from Mogadishu and most Al Shabab strongholds.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2018