Reports have emerged from African news agencies of an attack on the African Union (AU) base in Somalia by Al-Shabaab militants.
The pre-dawn raid targeted the AU base camp which houses Burundian ATMIS peace-keeping troops near the village of Ceel Baraf, just 160km north-east of the capital Mogadishu.
Local military commander Mohamed Ali told AFP news “The terrorists attacked the Burundian army base…there was heavy fighting and casualties inflicted on both sides, but we don’t have more details about the incident so far.”
He added, “They launched the attack with a car bomb blast before a heavy exchange of gunfire broke out.”
Local resident Weliyow Maalim told Africa News.com “Shebab gunmen attacked the base early in the morning, there were loud explosions and automatic weapons fire. The Burundians left the base and entered Ceel Baraf village before helicopters came to provide air support.”
Another witness Ahmed Adan said, “The helicopters fired missiles and machine-gun fire, we saw smoke rising over the base, but we don’t know anything about the exact situation.”
The attack on Tuesday occurred less than a week after the parliament appointed the speakers of two chambers in a key step toward the election of Somalia’s president, during an election period that has been marked by violence and intense power struggles between heads of state.
Whilst Somalian state media confirmed the attack, official casualty numbers have not been released.
In a statement Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack and said it had taken complete control of the base, however, this has not been confirmed and no comment was immediately available from the African Transitional Mission in Somalia (ATMIS).