Al-Shabab attack kills dozens of Ugandan troops in Somalia
An attack on an African Union base by al-Shabab militants in southern Somalia on Sunday has killed dozens of Ugandan peacekeepers, according to local reports.
Local officials quoted by The Guardian said that as many as 46 Ugandan troops were killed by the al-Qaeda affiliated group in Somalia's south.
The Ugandan military, meanwhile, has only confirmed the deaths of four soldiers.
A counter offensive against the militants left at least 22 of the attackers dead, Brig. Richard Karemire told the Associated Press.
The attack started in the morning when two suicide car bombs exploded at the entrance to the heavily fortified base in Bulo-Marer, an agricultural town in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region, said Somali army Col. Ahmed Hassan.
Nearly 100 fighters firing propelled grenades and machine guns attacked the base occupied by the Ugandan soldiers.
"That attack was repulsed but several soldiers have lost their lives to the bomb," said Hassan.
Residents reported explosions and sustained gunfire, sending hundreds of terrified villagers to the bush.
"We had a frightening day but the situation is calm now," said Nur Yusuf, a local elder reached by phone, who added that African Union and Somali troops were patrolling the town in the evening.
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack. The group said that 14 of its fighters were killed during the attack on the African Union base, according to Sheikh Abdulaziz Abu Musab, the group’s military spokesman. Al-Shabab’s casualty figures are often different from those issued by Somali officials.
Al-Shabab, which is often referred to as "the deadliest" Islamist extremist group in Africa, is fighting to impose its hardline interpretation of Islamic law across Somalia.
A truck bombing by the group in October killed 512 people in the country's deadliest-ever attack. Only a few attacks since 9/11 have killed more people.
The Horn of Africa nation continues to struggle to counter group. Concerns have been high over plans to hand over the country's security to Somalia's own forces as a 21,000-strong African Union force begins a withdrawal that is expected to be complete in 2020.
The US military, which has bolstered its efforts against the militant group in the past year with dozens of drone strikes, has said Somali forces are not yet ready to take on the task themselves.