MOGADISHU, Somalia: In a raid that bore the hallmarks of a foreign special forces unit, soldiers dropped off by helicopters hiked through the nighttime dark to a town controlled by Islamic militants. Then a firefight erupted.
Al-Shabab said Wednesday that its fighters had foiled the attack by foreign forces on Awdhegle town in southern Somalia overnight, and that they retreated with casualties.
The raid came three days after the U.S. carried out an air strike on an al-Shabab training camp that the Pentagon said killed about 150 militants. There was no immediate word on whether U.S. commandoes carried out the Tuesday night ground attack.
Sheikh Abdiaziz Abu Musab, a spokesman for al-Shabab, told a militant-run online radio that the unidentified foreign forces used two helicopters.
Mohamed Hassan, an elder in Awdhegle, told The Associated Press that the foreign forces parked their helicopters outside the town and walked at least 3 kilometers (1.9 miles), sneaking into the town to avoid detection by the Islamic fighters and launched a surprise raid.
He said there was gunfire between militants and al-Shabab foot soldiers that started near the police station.
The exact target of the raid, if any, remains unclear.
Meanwhile, three police officers and one civilian were killed Wednesday in a suicide car bombing outside a cafe near the police academy in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, said police Gen. Ali Hersi Barre.
There was no claim of responsibility for the blast, but it appeared to be part of attacks waged by al-Shabab, which was ousted from Mogadishu by African Union peacekeepers in 2011.