Al-Shabaab militants storm Somalia base used by Ethiopian troops

by Selam

International forces in Somalia have fought off an audacious attack on a heavily defended military base by hundreds of al-Shabaab militants.

The assault on Thursday is the latest in a series of high profile attacks by the Islamic extremists in the war-torn east African state and will fuel fears that the group, which is affiliated with al-Qaida, is gaining strength.

Both sides claim to have inflicted heavy casualties on their enemies during the battle at the base used by Ethiopian troops serving with the African Union (AU)’s Amisom force near the town of Halgan, 185 miles (300km) north-west of Mogadishu.

Locator map

Al-Shabaab’s propaganda unit issued a statement claiming its fighters had stormed the base early in the morning after ramming a suicide car bomb into the entrance. It said the group had killed between 40 and 60 soldiers.

Residents said they heard a huge explosion at the base and a heavy exchange of gunfire shortly before dawn.

“Our fighters stormed the Halgan base of Amisom,” al-Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, Abdiasis Abu Musab, told Reuters. He also said 16 militants had been killed in the attack.

Lt Col Joe Kibet, an Amisom spokesman in Mogadishu, told the Guardian that the Ethiopian troops had successfully repelled the attack and, backed by local forces, had pursued their fleeing enemy.

“We ended the operation in the early afternoon. We killed quite a number of these people, upward of 120 and captured a lot of heavy weapons,” Kibet said.

No figure for Amisom casualties was immediately available, the spokesman said, but he dismissed al-Shabaab’s claims as “very exaggerated”.

Ahmed Soliman of the Chatham House thinktank in London said the attack in Halgan was part of a

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