Heavily armed al-Shabaab fighters stormed an African Union (AU) base in Somalia on Tuesday, sparking a fierce firefight that claimed an unknown number of casualties, a local military commander and witnesses said.
< AU Forces dispatched helicopter gunships to a camp housing Burundian peacekeepers near Ceel Baraf, a village about 160 kilometers (100 miles) northeast of the capital Mogadishu, after the car bomb and gun attack before dawn, the sources said.
“There was heavy fighting and casualties on both sides, but we do not have any further details on this incident so far,” local military commander Mohamed Ali told AFP by phone.
“You launched the attack with a car bomb before a violent exchange of fire broke out,” he added.
Al-Shabaab has waged a deadly insurgency against Somalia’s fragile center Regi
She issued a statement blaming herself for the attack and saying she killed dozens of Burundian soldiers.
Her claim could not checked and there was no immediate comment from the AU Transitional Mission in Somalia or ATMIS.
“Armed Al-Shabaab men stormed the camp early in the morning, there were violent explosions and machine gun fire. The Burundians left the camp and entered Ceel Baraf before helicopters arrived to provide air support,” said a witness, local resident Weliyow Maalim.
“The helicopters fired rockets and heavy machine guns, we saw smoke rising above the camp, but we don’t know the exact situation,” said another witness, Ahmed Adan.
ATMIS replaced the former AMISOM peacekeeping for ce when its mandate expired at the end of March.
The new mission is tasked with helping the Somali armed forces assume primary responsibility for security in the troubled Horn of Africa nation.
Under a UN resolution ATMIS is to increase the number of personnel gradually reduced from nearly 20,000 soldiers, police and civilians to zero by the end of 2024.
Al-Shabaab militants controlled Mogadishu until 2011, when they were driven out by the AU violence.
But they still hold territory on land and frequently attack e.g civilian, military and government targets in Mogadishu and beyond.
The latest attack comes less than a week after Parliament elected new Speakers for the Upper and Lower Houses – an important step towards a long delayed presidential election.
The protracted electoral process was marred by deadly violence and a bitter power struggle between the president and prime minister.
Somalia’s international partners have expressed fears that the delays were a distraction from its countless problems, including the fight against Al-Shabaab and increasing famine in many parts of the country.