(Bloomberg) — A suicide bomber detonated a minibus full of explosives outside a compound in southwestern Somalia that houses Ethiopian troops, an official said. Al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-linked militia, claimed responsibility for the attack and said 33 Ethiopian soldiers were killed.
“An Ethiopian soldier fired on the minibus before it entered the compound and the attacker exploded himself at the front gate,” Sheikh Ahmed Abdullahi, an official from the pro- Somali-government Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a militia, said in a mobile-phone interview today from Beledweyne, near the Ethiopian border. “No casualties were reported.”
Ethiopian soldiers entered Somalia last month to help government forces capture Beledweyne from al-Shabaab, which controls most of southern and central Somalia. Their incursion began after Kenya sent armed forces into the neighboring country in mid-October to pursue al-Shabaab and secure its borders.
Al-Shabaab said that among the Ethiopian troops killed were four “senior” commanders, according to an e-mailed statement from the group. Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman Dina Mufti didn’t answer his mobile phone when called today, while Communications Minister Bereket Simon’s mobile phone was switched off when Bloomberg tried to reach him for comment.
“The Beledweyne operation is part of the new strategy adopted by the mujahedeen as a bold response to the increasingly hostile enemies that have invaded Somalia,” al-Shabaab said. As many as 72 soldiers were injured, while two army trucks and a car parked in the compound were destroyed, it said.
Ethiopia’s intervention in Somalia is its second since 2006. Its forces withdrew in January 2009 after pushing the Islamic Courts Union out of Mogadishu, and later becoming bogged down in a guerrilla war with Islamic militants.
–With assistance from William Davison in Addis Ababa. Editors: Paul Richardson, Alastair Reed.
To contact the reporter on this story: Hamsa Omar in Mogadishu via Nairobi at firstname.lastname@example.org.