Al-Shabaab fighters on Friday attacked a military base housing Ugandan forces of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, with a Somali captain saying both sides suffered heavy casualties.
The militants attacked the base belonging to the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) in Bulamarer, 130km (80 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu.
Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) deputy spokesman Deo Akiiki said, “There was an attack this morning at our base by elements of Al-Shabaab, but we are waiting for official communication from ATMIS headquarters.”
ATMIS had been assisting Somalia’s government in the war against the Islamist group.
It said, on Twitter, that it was assessing the security situation without providing details.
In a statement, Al-Shabaab claimed that it carried out suicide bomb attacks and killed 137 soldiers.
There was no immediate official confirmation of the casualties, and the group tends to give figures that differ from those issued by the authorities.
The militants attacked an ATMIS base and an adjacent one belonging to the Somali military, a Somali military captain who gave his name as Abdullahi told Reuters from the Lower Shabelle region.
“That prompted a fierce battle for hours. All groups, including Al-Shabaab, suffered heavy casualties,” he said.
Residents of the town said they woke up to the sound of huge explosions and heavy weapons.
A local, Rukia Farah, said, “Now we see al Shabaab in the town. We cannot know how many died. We are not hearing any shots from ATMIS and the government now.”
Since 2006, the militant group has been fighting to topple the government and establish its own rule based on its strict interpretation of Islamic law.
A government pushback since last year has seen the group’s control erode over vast swathes of land. But it can still launch significant attacks on government, commercial and military targets.