Al-Shabab militants attacked an African Union base in southern Somalia early on Tuesday, the Islamist group and residents said, according to reports. There was no immediate confirmation on the number of casualties from the authorities. However, Reuters reported, citing the militant group, that 50 African Union peacekeepers were killed.
The attack took place on Janale base, about 55 miles southwest of the capital, Mogadishu, in the lower Shabele region. The Islamist militant group reportedly said that one of its fighters rammed a car bomb into the base and then armed militants stormed the facility, run by AMISOM, the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia. Mohamed Shire, a Somali military commander based in the region, also reportedly confirmed the attack.
"Now Janale base of AMISOM is under our control," Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al-Shabab’s military operations spokesman, told Reuters.
African Union troops are working with Somalia's military forces to combat al-Shabab. The militant group, which has direct ties to al Qaeda, wants to topple the Western-backed government and impose Islamic law, or Shariah, in the country.
"Heavy fighting broke out after a suicide bomber rammed his vehicle into the camp," local resident Ali Moalim Yusuf said, according to Agence France-Presse. "I saw heavily armed fighters chanting 'Allahu Akbar' ('God is greatest') pouring into the base."