By OMAR FARUK
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — The African Union says a number of Burundian peacekeepers were killed in Tuesday’s attack by Islamic extremist rebels who targeted a remote military base in Somalia.
The African Union condemned the attack and paid “tribute to the Burundian peacekeepers who lost their lives helping to bring peace and stability to Somalia,” in a statement issued Wednesday.
That statement did not say how many peacekeepers were killed. African Union authorities generally do not give casualty tolls when peacekeepers are killed in Somalia.
The Islamic extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack on the base in El Baraf, a small town 150 kilometers (93 miles) north of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, in the Middle Shabelle region. The group circulated a video purporting to show the dead bodies of peacekeepers as well as military equipment seized in the attack.
Al-Shabab claimed to have killed 173 soldiers, but the group regularly inflates death tolls after attacks by its fighters. The death toll and al-Shabab’s purported video from the scene could not be independently verified.
Tuesday’s attack was the latest by al-Shabab, which opposes the presence of foreign troops in Somalia. The group, which is fighting to impose Islamic Shariah law across the Horn of Africa nation, has stepped up its attacks in recent months amid political tensions as Somalia tries to elect a new president.
Burundi is one of the African countries contributing troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia, now known by its initials as ATMIS. Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti also have deployed soldiers to the mission.
The African Union statement urged the international community “to increase support to the Somali security services and the ATMIS mission commensurate with the security challenge at hand.”