According to a local elder and the armed organization al-Shabab, an African Union mission soldier camp in the Shabelle area of central Somalia was attacked.
“We were awoken by huge blasts early in the morning. The blasts were at the African Union mission base. Heavy exchange of gunfire followed ,” local elder Mohamed Nur told Reuters by phone on Tuesday from El Baraf, some 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Mogadishu.
Three civilians were killed in the crossfire, according to another local from a nearby village.
He also claimed to have seen two helicopters flying past, each firing bullets.
The incident was claimed by Al-Shabab, which has been battling for years to overthrow the central government and create its own authority based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law.
Al-Shabab announced in a statement that “the Mujahideen launched a pre-dawn raid on an ATMIS [African Union Mission] military base in El Baraf, middle Shabelle region.”
“After a fierce firefight, the Mujahideen managed to overrun the base and are now in complete control of the entire military base.”
After the initial attack, helicopters were observed flying above the location, according to Farah Hussein, a shopkeeper from El Baraf.
He remarked over the phone, “We heard some gunshots and sounds of weapons being fired from the helicopters.”
“The ATMIS forces are also in the jungles pursuing the al-Shabab fighters. So far we know three civilians died and five others were injured in the fighting.”
Shabelle officials and the African Union mission did not respond to requests for comment on the incident.
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SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES