Islamist insurgents battled for hours on Sunday with African Union troops after exploding a car bomb outside their base, Somali police, military and the militants said.
An AMISOM soldier stands guard close to destroyed vehicles following a suicide attack which targeted a convoy of African Union troops on September 8, 2014. (Photo/AFP).
Al Shabaab militants attacked the African Union (AU) peacekeepers’ base in the town Bulamarer, around 9 a.m. local time, residents from the area haa told Reuters.
Since withdrawing from Mogadishu in 2011, the al Qaeda-linked group has lost control of most of Somalia’s cities and towns. But it still retains a strong presence in regions outside the capital.
The militants initially detonated two suicide car bombs that hit one AU vehicle and one Somali military vehicle, Somali army major Farah Osman, who is stationed near the AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) base, said.
“Then a large number of al Shabaab fighters began firing from under the trees … it was a hellish battle,” he said, adding there was an unknown number of casualties.
Militants on foot then attacked nearby villages, said Ali Nur, deputy governor of the Lower Shabelle region where the base is located. “They were repulsed, but all these attacks were to stop reinforcement.”
Abdiasis Abu Musab, a spokesman for al Shabaab said 14 of the group’s fighters and 59 AMISOM troops were killed in the incident.
Ali Nur, the government official, said no soldiers from the Somali army were killed and was not sure if any AMISOM troops were killed.
Major Nur Ali told Reuters that Somali and AMISOM forces had attacked al Shabaab in rural areas near the base on Saturday night. “Then al Shabaab attacked this morning as a revenge,” he said.
Somalia has been mired in civil war since 1991.
The Shabaab is fighting to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu, which is protected by AMISOM.
In June 2015, Shabaab fighters killed dozens of Burundian soldiers when they overran an AMISOM outpost northwest of Mogadishu.
The militants also stage frequent suicide attacks inside the capital.
But the AMISOM force has also made significant gains against the Shebab, pushing them out of several strongholds in the southwest of the country.