At least four innocent civilians perished after unidentified assailants have opened fire on a passenger bus in Southern Somalia on Thursday, witnesses and Police said.

The bus came under attack on a road leading to Lantaburo area in Lower Shabelle region, a hotbed of the Al Qaeda-linked militant group Al Shabaab.

“Men armed with AK-47 rifles wearing face masks fired on a four-wheel drive vehicle carrying passengers on a desolate road near Lantaburo location in eastern Lower Shabelle region,” said a resident who spoke to Radio Shabelle by phone.

The gunmen abducted five passengers after the shooting. Men, women, and children are among the dead and injured, local officials said.

It is not yet clear the motive behind the shooting of the bus, and no group has so far claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.

This comes amid an intense military operation against Al Shabaab in Lower Shabelle region by Somali troops, along with African Union peacekeepers.