MOGADISHU, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) -- The Somali military on Monday confirmed the killing of nine al-Shabab militants in an offensive on Sunday in southern Somalia.
Ali Abdullahi Araye, commander of Unit 35, section 7 of Somali forces, said the offensive was launched after residents of Kaxarey, Busley and Baldof villages informed the army that the militants had sneaked in and ordered locals to pay taxes.
"Our forces fought off the militants and we defeated them, killing nine of them, and the rest ran away," Araye said, noting that the forces also burnt vehicles and motorbikes that the militants used to carry explosives.
Residents reported witnessing fierce confrontations.
"Every year like this month, al-Shabab forcibly collects Zakawat (tax) among the residents," Yahye Alas, a resident, told Xinhua by phone. "But today they were attacked by government forces."
"There was intense fight, but the militants finally withdrew from the villages," he said.
The latest military offensive came barely two days after six militants were killed and nine others injured in a joint offensive conducted by Somali army and Jubaland state forces in Lower Juba region.
Southern regions of Somalia have become battle ground of government forces and al-Shabab extremists after the militants were chased out from the capital in August 2011 by African Union forces and the Somali army.