BY OMAR FARUK
MOGADISHU, SOMALIA (AP) — Somalia’s al-Shabab Islamic extremist rebels have attacked a military base of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia, witnesses told The Associated Press.
The attack started early Tuesday when a vehicle rammed into the fence surrounding the base and exploded in El-Baraf, a strategic town 150 kilometers (93 miles) northeast of the capital Mogadishu in the Middle Shabelle region, residents said.
Residents said they heard massive explosions at the base followed by gunfire.
“While we were preparing to perform the dawn prayer, we heard two loud explosions that hit the base ... followed by a heavy exchange of gunfire between the militants and Burundi troops that lasted for almost an hour,” Abshir Ali, a resident of El-Baraf said by phone.
Somalia’s state media confirmed the attack and said the Burundi soldiers at the base repulsed it. Officials have not given an estimate of the numbers killed in the battle.
Plumes of smoke rose from the camp during the fierce gun battle that forced some residents to flee the town, said residents. Helicopters from the African Union force were used to help the Burundi soldiers maintain control of the camp, they said.
Somalia’s al-Shabab Islamic extremist rebels claimed responsibility for the attack.