Colonel Muse Hassan, a Somali military commander in the Middle Shabelle region, told CNN that heavily armed Al-Shabaab gunmen attacked the Burundian base of El-Baraf, about 160 km north of the capital Mogadishu, from different directions. early Tuesday.
Hassan said a suicide car bomb entered the base’s main gates, allowing fighters to enter the camp, where they engaged in a heavy firefight with AU soldiers for about an hour. The base is located along the main road connecting Mogadishu to the northern parts of the country.
In a statement posted on its affiliate websites, Al-Shabaab said its fighters killed 59 soldiers as they took control of the base, but authorities have not confirmed those claims or the number of possible casualties. This is the second time the camp has been raided by the terrorist group this year.
“This morning we woke up to a huge explosion and heavy gunfire at the Burundian army base in El-Baraf, which was attacked from multiple directions, we don’t know how many soldiers were killed, but we saw smoke and flames, ”said Hawo Ali, a local resident, who spoke on the phone with CNN.
CNN contacted the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), formally known as the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), for comment on the attack.
The attack comes when Somalia was sworn in in a new parliament on April 14 and is expected to hold presidential elections later this year, after more than a year of delays due to the political crisis. No precise date has been set for the elections.
The political situation in the country was further complicated by the power struggle between Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble and President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, which helped delay the elections.
Al-Shabaab, a Somali group that the United States designated as a foreign terrorist organization in March 2008, has been fighting for years to be at the top of the central government and establish a rule based on its strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law. It continued to carry out frequent attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere, despite government and international efforts to stop it.