Gunmen have attacked the African Union’s main base in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, leading to an exchange of gunfire between armed men and soldiers that left nine people killed.
Among the dead in Thursday’s attack were three AU soldiers and one civilian, the AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM) said in a statement. At least five of the attackers were reported killed and three others were captured.
The armed Somali group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack and said they were targeting a Christmas party at the compound, which also houses embassies and UN offices.
Maman S Sidikou, head of AMISOM, told Al Jazeera that the force would act “very quickly to the new tactics” being used by al-Shabab and take the measures required to prevent any such events happening again.
The AU force said all of its personnel as well as UN staff were unharmed in the attack, disputing claims from an al-Shabab spokesman.
“Our fighters are inside the headquarters of the foreign troops in Somalia,” al-Shabab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab told the AFP news agency, also claiming that several African Union soldiers had been killed.
Somali police official Abdi Ahmed earlier spoke of strong explosions at the rear entrance to the base and exchanges of gunfire during the assault that lasted for several hours.
The AU’s Halane base is on the edge of the Mogadishu international airport compound, which houses the base for UN operations in Somalia as well as the British and Italian embassies and has a tight security cordon and blast walls.
There are currently about 22,000 AU troops as part of the force, deployed since 2007.
AU peacekeepers from Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti have been battling al-Shabab for years and have forced the group out of Mogadishu.
However, the fighters continue to carry out deadly attacks in and around Mogadishu.