An attack by al-Shabab Islamists on a remote African Union base in Somalia has claimed the lives of dozens of soldiers from Burundi. Several soldiers were also reported to have been injured and kidnapped.
More than 50 soldiers from Burundi were killed in Friday's attack by the Islamist group on a military base in the village of Lego in southern Somalia, a Burundian army spokesman said on Saturday.
"Several soldiers were also injured, and the death toll is likely to rise," Gaspard Baratuza told the DPA news agency.
The death toll has not been independently verified.
Eyewitnesses said the attack began when a suicide bomber drove an explosives-laden car into the entrance of the base, manned by some 100 Burundian soldiers who are taking part in an African Union (AU) mission in Somalia to help the government fight al-Shabab.
Militants armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades then moved into the base, situated 100 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of the capital, Mogadishu, they said.
The Islamist fighters also kidnapped several Somali soldiers, a local offical and two translators working for the AU, according to the governor of the region, Abdiqadir Mohamed Siidi. Some of the militants were also reported to have been killed.
Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack. The group, which is fighting against Somalia's Western-backed government, has pledged to step up attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The United Nations chief's special representative for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, condemned the assault and sent his condolences to the victims' families and friends and to the Burundian government.
The head of the AU mission to Somalia, Maman Sidikou, said the attack would not "dampen our resolve to continue to support the Somali government and people until they are free from terrorism."
Friday saw a spate of Islamist attacks across the world, with dozens of people killed in major assaults in Tunisia and Kuwait. An attack by suspected Islamists at a gas plant in southeastern France left one person dead and two injured.
tj/ng (dpa, AFP)