Terrorists in the Al Qaeda affiliate Al Shabaab in Somalia launched a brutal attack at dawn on Friday against African Union (AU) peacekeepers at a base 80 miles south of Mogadishu, officials said according to Reuters.
The attack in Leego, the latest in a series since the Muslim month of Ramadan began last Thursday, was timed as residents were in morning prayers and began with a car bomb followed by a gun battle that lasted for hours.
"A car bomb rammed into the AU base," Somali Major Nur Olow said. "AU forces opened fire at the speeding car bomb (but) the car forced its way in." The attack was confirmed by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
A full three hours after the attack started the fighting was still in full swing according to Abdikadir Mohamed Sidi, governor of the Lower Shabelle region that contains Leego. The town is on the main road connecting the cities of Mogadishu and Baidoa.
"There is still heavy fighting between Burundian forces and Al Shababb at the Burundi base in Leego town," Sidi said, adding it is "too early to know casualties."
The AU peacekeeping force consists of soldiers from Kenya, Uganda and Burundi for the most part.
Al Shabaab released a statement on the attack, with its spokesperson Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab saying "heavy fighting goes on inside the base."
He claimed the terrorists had killed 35 soldiers, although the group has been known to routinely inflate death tolls.
Al Shabaab has been going on an attack spree since Ramadan started, striking an AU convoy of Ethiopian soldiers in the area last week aside from two attacks in Mogadishu this week.
In those attacks, terrorists stormed a national intelligence agency training site Sunday, and on Wednesday unleashed a car bomb against military instructors from the United Arab Emirates, killing at least three Somali soldiers.
Al Shabaab gained infamy after conducting a ruthless attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya in late 2013 that murdered 67 people.
An offensive last year by AMISOM and the Somali army pushed the terror group from its major strongholds, but it still has control of several rural areas from which it launches attacks in Somali and neighboring Kenya.