Dozens dead in Somali gunfight
A gun battle between al-Shabaab fighters and African Union (AU) peacekeepers left dozens of people dead in southwestern Somalia on Friday.
Militants from the al-Qaeda-linked group stormed the base in the Horn of Africa, blasting their way into the compound and exchanging fire with peacekeepers, a Somali military official told Al Jazeera.
The base is run by Kenyan troops who are part of the AU force in the town of El-Ade, not far from the Kenyan border.
Al-Shabaab later released a statement saying it had killed at least 63 soldiers in the bloody attack.
But the Kenyan military said that the rebels had attacked Somali government soldiers who were stationed near the AU base run by the Kenyan contingent.
The AU also denied the claim on Friday afternoon that 63 people were killed, adding that the number of casualties was unknown.
Lieutenant Colonel Paul Njuguna, spokesperson for the AU mission in Somalia, told Al Jazeera that “everyone is familiar with al-Shabaab’s propaganda”.
“They will claim that they have taken over the camp, even though they have not. Once we come to an end of this battle, we will have information on the number of casualties and a proper account of what happened,” Njuguna said.
“Al-Shabaab militia attacked the Somali National Army (SNA) camp, which is in close proximity to the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) camp at El-Ade in Somalia. The SNA camp was overrun and the KDF troops under Amisom counterattacked in support of SNA,” said David Obonyo, spokesperson for the Kenyan military.
This is not the first time that al-Shabaab has attacked an AU military base in Somalia. The group launched two attacks on Amisom troop bases last year – one manned by troops from Burundi in June, and another on Ugandan troops in September that left at least 50 dead.