Ethiopian troops and Somali National Defence Forces killed five senior Al-Shabaab commanders and over 245 fighters, according to the Ethiopian Ministry of Defense.
They repulsed an attack on a military outpost at Halgan, on the road between Belet Weyne and Buulo Burde, 300 kilometers from Mogadishu early Thursday morning. Government said on Friday that many others were captured and a huge quantity of weapons recovered. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces remain in full control of Halgan town.
Ethiopia has said that its soldiers deployed in Somalia successfully repulsed Al-Shabaab fighters who on Thursday dawn attacked an army base used by the African Union force fighting the Al-Qaeda linked group.
The Shabaab movement earlier announced a major assault on the base in Halgan in the central Hiran region of the arid Horn of Africa nation, via its Telegram messaging platform.
Ethiopian government spokesman Getachew Reda dismissed the claim made by Al-Shabaab that they had killed dozens of soldiers, while losing just 16 of their own fighters.
“There was an attempt by Al-Shabaab to attack our forces in central Somalia but our forces killed 245 militants and destroyed heavy weaponry,” Getachew said.
“We are still assessing how many people got hurt on our side but their claim that they have killed 43 Ethiopian soldiers is an absolute lie. This is a figment of their imagination,” he added.
However, there also reports which claim that Ethiopian troops lost only nine and sustained six injuries.
“The Mujahideen fighters stormed the base and massacred many of the Ethiopians,” Al-Shabaab claimed, putting the death toll at 60.
Casualty figures from this type of attack are impossible to verify independently. Al-Shabaab generally exaggerates, while the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) usually gives no details of losses among its ranks.
On its Twitter account, AMISOM—comprising troops from Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda—confirmed “an attempted Shabaab attack” but gave no figures.
“The enemy was successfully repulsed,” AMISOM said, claiming also to be “in pursuit” of the attackers.
Residents in the area close to Halgan said the attack began when a vehicle driven by a suicide bomber exploded at the entrance to the base, after which jihadist gunmen fought their way in.
“There was a huge blast and then heavy exchange of gunfire started,” Osman Adan, a resident living nearby, said.
Shooting had died down by mid-morning and local authorities confirmed the clashes.
“There was a major attack this morning at Halgan. Violent elements tried to break into the base of the Somali army and of AMISOM, but they were driven back and their bodies are everywhere,” Guhad Abdi Warsame, a senior official, said.
“They lost and now we have complete control of the zone, the situation is normal,” he said.
Earlier on Sunday AMISOM announced that it has arrested five of its soldiers for alleged involvement in illegal sale of military supplies.
In a press release, AMISOM said that the soldiers were arrested in a joint operation they conducted together with the Somali Police Force following investigations that had been ongoing into the matter.
“AMISOM had previously received information that its soldiers were allegedly involved in illegal activity and acted decisively to investigate the matter. The investigation culminated in a joint operation to apprehend the soldiers who were found in possession of fuel and sand bags,” an AMISOM source said.
The soldiers were arrested alongside ten civilians at a garage in Benadir region. Also recovered were telephones, ammunition materials and petrol, among others.
“AMISOM exercises zero tolerance to unprofessional conduct among its personnel and the culprits will be prosecuted in accordance with the law,” they said.
AMISOM said that they will continue to investigate the matter to its logical conclusion, and will take the requisite steps to ensure that this practice was uprooted from within its ranks.