Al-Shabaab militants have attacked an African Union base in south-western Somalia, killing dozens of Kenyan peacekeepers.
According to Somali military officials, fighting is still going on inside the base after Islamic jihadists belonging to the Al-Qaeda-linked, Al-Shabaab terrorist group launched a dawn raid on Friday.
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Heavily armed militants from the Al-Shabaab extremist Islamist group launched an attack on a military base run by Kenyan troops, a contributing military force of the African Union, the Associated Press reports.
The offensive started with a suicide bomber exploding in a car at the entrance to the base. Following the explosion, heavy fire started and the extremists stormed the base.
BREAKING: Somali official says Islamic extremist rebels attack African Union base run by Kenyan peacekeepers in southwestern Somalia.
— The Associated Press (@AP) January 15, 2016
The fighting inside the base is continuing, a Somalian military official has confirmed. The base is situated in the town of El-Ade in Somalia’s Gedo region, near the Kenyan border.
— Mohamed Moalimuu (@MOALIMUU) January 15, 2016
Al-Shabaab online radio announced that its fighters had penetrated the base and killed more than 60 Kenya Defense Force soldiers. The terrorists claim they have seized large number of weapons and vehicles at the military base.
— Live From Mogadishu (@Daudoo) January 15, 2016
“Our fighters went in and after a heavy exchange of gunfire we took over the base,” Al-Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, told Reuters, which cited residents as reporting sporadic gunfire inside the military compound.
The Al-Shabaab militant group, which has pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda, is seeking to overthrow the Western-backed Somalian government and impose a form of Islamic sharia law. It has launched a number of deadly attacks in Kenya, presumably aimed at countering the country’s participation in an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia.
The group was blamed for an attack on Garissa University in April last year, which killed 148 students. One year prior to that, Al-Shabaab killed 65 people in a 24-hour period in and around Mpeketoni. It was also responsible for a raid on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall in 2013, which killed 67 people.
Although Al-Shabaab officially remains loyal to Al-Qaeda, around 200 of its fighters pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in December, causing tensions within Al-Shabaab.