MORE than 30 peacekeepers were killed when al-Shabaab militants attacked a base in the southern Somali town of Leego on Friday, the Islamist group said in a statement broadcast on Radio Andalus.
“Amisom confirms there is an ongoing attack at their Leego Somalia base that started this morning,” the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), said on its Twitter account. It gave no details of casualties.
Al-Shabaab militants earlier had claimed to have overrun an African Union army base in a village in southern Somalia , in the latest attack during the insurgents’ annual Ramadan fighting season.
The military outpost in Lego village, 100 kilometres (62 miles) northwest of the capital Mogadishu, is manned by Burundian soldiers who are part of the 22,000 strong African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
Residents said the dawn raid started with a suicide bomber driving a car loaded with explosives into the entrance of the base, before dozens of militants armed with machine guns and rocket propelled grenades began their assault.
“We could see smoke and hear explosions, there was heavy fighting in the AMISOM base with heavily armed Shabaab fighters,” said Hassan Mohamed, a resident.
Several other witnesses confirmed heavy fighting at the base.
Al-Shabaab spokesman claimed the militants had taken control of the base killing “dozens”, and had raised their flag and seized weapons.
“The Black Islamic flag is flying over the main base of AMISOM in Lego this morning and the dead bodies of the enemy are scattered around the area, the mujahedeen fighters have taken all their military supplies,” Mohamed Abu-Yahya, an al-Shabaab commander said.
The Al-Qaeda affiliate is fighting to overthrow Somalia’s Western-backed government which is propped up and protected by AMISOM.
Under military pressure at home al-Shabaab is increasingly turning its attention to Kenya where it has launched a string of recent deadly assaults.
The Islamic militants commonly step up their attacks during Islam’s holy fasting month of Ramadan..