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Al-Shabab Attack Kills Scores of AU Troops

by Gabe Joselow June 26, 2015

Islamist militant group al-Shabab killed more than 70 African Union soldiers and seized control of their peacekeeping base in southern Somalia early Friday.

Witnesses say attackers rammed a car filled with explosives into the main gate of the base in the town of Leego, about 130 kilometers south of the capital Mogadishu, then opened fire on troops.

The AMISOM contingent stationed at the base came mostly from Burundi, and Somali officials tell VOA more than 70 Burundian troops were killed in the early morning assault.

Another 20 Burundian soldiers and 40 Somali civilians are missing, and there are fears they have been kidnapped.

Both the base and town of Leego are said to be in the hands of al-Shabab.

Mohammed Omar Dalha, a Somali parliamentarian from the region, says the attack was prolonged and bloody.

"First the militants attacked the base with a car full of explosives, and then a gun battle followed," he says. "They were fighting for close to four hours."

Abdikadir Mohamed Nur Siidi, governor of the Lower Shabelle region, said dozens of al-Shabab fighters were also killed, and that at least 15 suicide bombers were involved in the attack.

Friday's was the latest of several reported al-Shabab attacks since the start of the holy month of Ramadan last week.

AU troops, together with Somali forces, have pushed al-Qaida-linked militants out of Somalia's major cities, but the group still controls rural areas and continues to launch attacks. In April, al-Shabab fighters stormed Garissa University College in Kenya, killing 148 people.

Troops from Burundi and Uganda make up the bulk of the African Union force that has battled al-Shabab in Somalia since 2007. In recent years, AMISOM and Somali National Forces have regained territory previously controlled by the al-Qaida linked militants, but the group has continued to launch periodic large-scale attacks both in Somalia and Kenya.

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