MOGADISHU: Heavily-armed Al-Shabaab militants attacked an African Union military camp outside Mogadishu on Sunday, killing four Ugandan peacekeepers, their army said.
Local sources said a massive blast was heard in the Bulomarer district, around 150 kilometres south of Mogadishu, and fighting broke out after dozens of heavily armed Shabaab militants stormed the base.
"The heavy blast struck the base before fighting broke out. We are hearing the militants used a minibus loaded with explosives to make their way in before the heavily armed confrontation started at the camp," said local security official Ibrahim Abdilahi.
Extremist 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.
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-Shabab militants began firing from under the trees ... it was a hellish battle,” he said, adding there was an unknown number of casualties.
The phone of the spokesman for the AMISOM force based in Mogadishu was switched off on Sunday and Reuters was unable to reach any other officials from the force for comment.
Abdiasis Abu Musab, a spokesman for Al-Shabab said 14 of the group’s fighters and 59 AMISOM troops were killed in the incident.
A police major stationed in a nearby town also said two car bombs exploded outside the base before the Al-Shabab militants entered it.
Major Nur Ali told Reuters that Somali and AMISOM forces had attacked Al-Shabab in rural areas near the base on Saturday night. “Then Al-Shabab attacked this morning as a revenge,” he said.
Somalia has been mired in civil war since 1991.