Updated April 2
Heavily-armed al-Shabaab militants on Sunday attacked an African Union military camp in Somalia where peacekeepers from Uganda are stationed, security officials and witnesses said.
Local sources said a massive blast was heard in the Bulo Marer district, around 130km (81 miles) south of Mogadishu, and fighting broke out after heavily armed Shabaab militants stormed the base.
“The heavy blast struck the base before fighting broke out but we don’t have the details. We are hearing the militants used a minibus loaded with explosives to make their way in before the heavily armed confrontation started at the camp,” said local security official Ibrahim Abdilahi.
“There was heavy fighting and we could see smoke rising above the military base”, said witness Mohamed Sharif.
MORE: Residents say there were many casualties among @amisomsomalia troops. AU spokesperson's phone was switched off today and he couln't be reached for any comment.
— Hussein Mohamed ?? (@HussienM12) April 1, 2018
The number of casualties could not be immediately confirmed.
Ugandan army spokesperson Brigadier Richard Karemire tweeted that 30 Shabaab militants had been killed.
Al Shabaab spokesperson Abdiasis Abu Musab claimed in a statement that 59 Ugandan soldiers and 14 of its fighters were killed.
Update In an April 2 release, AMISOM said at least 30 militants were “put out of action, following intense fighting.” AMISOM said four of its soldiers were killed and six injured.
#BREAKING: #Alshabaab militants storm #AMISOM army base in Bulo Mareer village in Lower Shabelle region, south of #Somalia, residents say they heard twin explosions followed by an exchange of gunfire. There are no immediate reports on casualties.
— Somalia Live Update (@HassanIstiila) April 1, 2018
VOA reported that Somali officials said the attack on Bulo Marer began with two suicide vehicle bombs, and that other nearby African Umion Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) bases were also attacked – a VBIED exploded in Golweyn village, and a base in Barawe was attacked with mortars. Qoryoley and Mashallay were also attacked. Reuters also reported two VBIEDs at Bulo Marer.
The April 2 AMISOM release confirmed that there were “simultaneous attacks on Forward Operating Bases in Quoryole, Bulomareer, and Golwein.”
It said eight vehicles including two VBIEDs were destroyed and “an assortment of weapons” was recovered.
“There was one main attack on Bulo Marer, all the other attacks were intended to distract troops in those camps from reinforcing and helping Bulo Marer,” Deputy Governor of Lower Shabelle region Ali Nur Mohamed told VOA Somali, adding that all the attacks had been repelled.
Somali officials in Lower Shabelle region say they have collected the bodies of 53 militants killed in Sunday’s attack AMISOM military base in Bulo Marer. Al-Shabab claimed killing 59 Ugandan soldiers while UPDF admitted 4 loses. https://t.co/znImAtZ3Ot
— Harun Maruf (@HarunMaruf) April 2, 2018
Al-Qaeda linked al-Shabaab was pushed out of the Somali capital in 2011 – and subsequently other towns and cities – by AMISOM soldiers.
But the Islamists still hold sway in large parts of the countryside and launch regular gun and bomb attacks on government, military and civilian targets in Mogadishu and ambushes on military convoys and outposts.
East African leaders contributing to the 22,000-strong AMISOM force last month called for the United Nations to reconsider plans to withdraw troops by December 2020, saying the timeline was unrealistic and could lead to a reversal of gains.
With reporting from AFP