Al-Shabab fighters attacked a base of the African Union’s AMISOM force in Somalia on Thursday and both sides claimed to have inflicted big casualties on each other.
The Al-Qaeda-linked extremist group said in a statement distributed on its Telegram messaging channel that at least 60 Ethiopian soldiers were killed when a suicide bomber rammed a car packed with a explosives into the base. It said 16 of its own fighters died in the attack.
The AU force said it had repelled the “attempted attack” and killed 110 militants.
“AMISOM forces killed 110 Al-Shabab and captured a large cache of weapons,” spokesman Lt. Col. Joe Kibet told Reuters by telephone, adding that a claim by Al-Shabab that it had killed 60 AU soldiers was a “falsehood.”
AMISOM, which comprises troops from Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, are supporting Somalia’s Western-backed government and army in the fight against the Al-Qaeda-linked militants.
Residents near the base in the central town of Halgan in Hiran region said they heard a huge explosion and heavy exchanges of gunfire shortly before dawn. Shots rang out at least an hour after the initial blast, they said.
“There was a huge blast and then heavy exchange of gunfire started,” said Osman Adan, a nearby resident.
Shooting had died down by mid-morning Thursday.
The Shabab launched this style of “swarming” attack a year ago and have since overrun forward operating bases manned by Burundian troops in Lego in June, Ugandan troops in Janale in September and Kenyan troops in El Adde in January.
The contributing countries refuse to confirm casualty numbers but it is believed that scores of AMISOM have been killed in each attack.
In the El Adde attack alone more than 140 Kenyan soldiers are believed to have been killed, although the Kenyan government has refused to confirm any numbers.
This is the first such raid on an Ethiopian outpost in Somalia.
“Mujahideen fighters stormed the base and massacred many of the Ethiopians,” the Shabab said in its statement.
The Shabab was forced out of the capital Mogadishu five years ago but continues to carry out regular attacks on military, government and civilian targets in its battle to overthrow the internationally-backed administration.
The group commonly steps up its attacks during Ramadan, but this year is considered critical, with the Shabab eager to disrupt an expected change of government leadership due in the coming months.
Source: Arab News