, MOGADISHU, May 31 – Two soldiers with the African Union force in Somalia were killed Monday in a suicide attack by Al-Qaeda loyalists that also claimed the lives of at least three attackers, AU and Somali forces said.
Shebab extremists, who pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda last year, claimed responsibility for the attack and claimed their forces killed eight AU troops without revealing their own casualties.
Extremist insurgents disguised as Somali soldiers attacked Shakala military base south of the capital Mogadishu and exchanged fire with AU troops guarding the compound, the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) said in a statement.
Four assailants believed to be Shebab Islamist militiamen were behind the attack, the head of Somali security forces Mohamed Abdulahi told AFP.
"Two of the suicide bombers were killed before entering the base, but one was able to activate his bomb," he said.
The AU statement said the attackers drove up in a white saloon car but failed to enter the base. "Three of them were killed, including one would-be suicide attacker who ran away towards Hamar Weyne district," it said.
Two AU troops were killed and five other soldiers were wounded when the body of one of the suicide attackers exploded, it added.
Shebab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage said: "The mujahedeen and in particular the unit tasked with the suicide attacks launched a well-organised assault this afternoon."
"They successfully killed eight soldiers at the entrance (of the base) and they forcefully entered", he said, adding at least 20 soldiers were injured.
Shebab leaders and foreign Al-Qaeda fighters in Somalia two weeks ago declared vengeance "in the near future" for the death of Osama bin Laden by US special forces in Pakistan earlier this month.
Somali police at the time said it was aware of a series of planned suicide attacks.
Shebab extremists control southern swathes of Somalia and part of its capital.
However, they have retreated after pro-government forces in February launched a 9,000-strong offensive backed up by AMISOM forces that include soldiers from Uganda and Burundi.