- AU mission says it only briefly lost control of base
- Al-Shabaab says it killed 80; AU hasn't verified casualties
Islamist militants linked to al-Qaeda attacked an African Union military base in southern Somalia on Tuesday, killing dozens of soldiers, a Somali army officer said.
Fighters from the al-Shabaab insurgent group raided the base at Janaale, about 75 kilometers (46 miles) southwest of the capital, Mogadishu, at dawn using rocket-propelled grenades, Abdifitah Aden said by phone from the town. After breaking through the base’s fence, the militants stormed inside and engaged troops in a firefight, he said. Ugandan troops manned the base.
“The militants managed to overrun the base, killing dozens of Amisom troops,” Aden said. “Despite being outnumbered, the peacekeepers managed to fight back bravely.”
The African Union Mission in Somalia, known as Amisom, said in a statement that its forces only briefly withdrew from the camp and have since re-established full control. The number of casualties haven’t yet been verified, according to the statement.
African Union troops from countries including Kenya, Uganda and Burundi are cooperating with Somali forces in trying to eradicate al-Shabaab, which has waged an insurgency in Somalia since 2006 to impose Shariah, or Islamic law. While the militant group has lost ground, it continues to stage deadly gun and bomb attacks, including in Mogadishu.
Al-Shabaab said in a statement posted on the SomaliMeMo website that it killed 80 Amisom soldiers. Amisom spokesman Eloi Yao didn’t answer his phone when Bloomberg called him twice seeking comment and didn’t respond to e-mailed questions.
Al-Shabaab military spokesman Sheikh Abdulaziz Abu Musab said in comments broadcast on Radio Andalus on Tuesday that the attack on Janaale was in retaliation for the killing of civilians, allegedly by Amisom troops, in July.
Amisom in July resumed its military offensive against al-Shabaab in a campaign known as Operation Juba Corridor. The mission seeks to remove the militants from strongholds in the southwestern Bakool, Gedo and Bay regions. Janaale is situated in Lower Shabelle region to the east.