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Somalia’s African Union army base attacked by Al-Shabaab militants

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Al-Shabaab terrorists attacked an African Union military base where Ugandan troops are stationed in Somalia on Friday, sparking clashes.

It was not immediately known if there were any casualties in the attack, which was claimed by a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda.

Local residents and a Somali military commander told AFP that a car packed with explosives rammed into the base in Bulo Marer, 120 kilometers (75 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu, sparking an armed clash.

Pro-government forces backed by the African Union force known as ATMIS launched an offensive last August against al-Shabab, which has waged an insurgency in the fragile Horn of Africa country for more than 15 years.

ATMIS said the Polo Marer camp was attacked at 5 am (2 am GMT) by al-Shabaab militants “using vehicle-mounted explosive devices and suicide bombers”.

“Reinforcements from the aviation unit of Atmis and its allies managed to destroy weapons in the possession of the retreating al-Shabaab fighters,” it said in a statement.

UPDF spokesman Felix Kulaygi said in a statement that the attack targeted Ugandan soldiers stationed in Somalia as part of the ATMIS system, adding that the military is “reviewing” the details.

ATMIS’s 20,000-strong force has more offensive power than its predecessor known as the AMISOM.

The force consists of Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Its goal is to hand over security responsibilities to the Somali army and police by 2024.

And claimed the youth movement through its media channels that it overran the base and inflicted a large number of victims.

But Somali military commander Mohamed Yero Hassan said the attackers had been repelled and “the situation is back to normal now”.

“The terrorists were forced to retreat and flee,” Hassan told AFP by phone.

Al-Shabaab is known to exaggerate claims of battlefield gains in propaganda, while governments of troop-contributing countries to AMISOM rarely confirm losses.

Attacks on army bases in isolated parts of Somalia are difficult to independently verify.

“Everything is being done to control the situation,” said ATMIS.

Retaliatory attacks

Last year, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud launched an “all-out war” against the militants and rallied Somalis to help expel members of the extremist group, which he described as “bed bugs”.

In recent months, the army and militias known as “Makaweli” have reclaimed swathes of territory in the volatile center of the country in an operation backed by ATMIS and US airstrikes.

The US Africa Command said on Monday that it carried out a raid early last week in Jilib, in southern Somalia, and that initial assessments indicated that no civilians were harmed.

Despite the gains made by pro-government forces, the militants continued to strike with deadly force against civilian and military targets.

In the deadliest al Shabaab attack since the offensive began, 121 people were killed in October when two car bombs exploded at the Ministry of Education in Mogadishu.

In a report to the UN Security Council in February, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said 2022 was the deadliest year for civilians in Somalia since 2017, largely as a result of attacks by Al-Shabaab.

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