ADDIS ABABA - The Ethiopian National Defense Force on Saturday confirmed an ambush by al-Shabab extremists on an Ethiopian peacekeeping convoy in neighboring Somalia and said Ethiopian forces are preparing a “massive offensive” in response.
The statement rejected an al-Shabab claim that several Ethiopian troops were killed.
The ambush was reported as the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the deadly hotel assault in Nairobi and deadly attacks on forces inside Somalia.
U.S. and Somali military officials said Saturday that scores of al-Qaida-affiliated fighters had been killed during an attack on a government military base near Somalia's southern port city of Kismayo.
The militants launched a surprise dawn attack Saturday at the base near Bula Gudud village, 50 kilometers north of Kismayo, starting with triple suicide blasts. Scores of heavily armed militants then stormed the base from all directions, Somali officials told VOA.
"The terrorists have attacked the base with suicide blasts, and fierce fighting occurred.
Ethiopia contributes troops to a multinational African Union peacekeeping mission. It also has troops in Somalia independently under Ethiopian army command.
The statement said the ambush occurred when the convoy was traveling Burhakaba to Baidoa in Somalia’s southwest.
A separate statement by the AU force said the ambush occurred on Friday and AU troops returned fire, killing four extremists and wounding several others.
Three soldiers with the AU force were wounded, the statement said.
Al-Shabab, which formed more than a decade ago in response to the presence of Ethiopian forces inside Somalia, among other reasons, has never managed to orchestrate a major attack inside the Ethiopian heartland, though it has carried out major attacks in neighboring Kenya.
In late October, al-Shabab claimed killing 30 Ethiopian troops inside Somalia. Weeks before that, Ethiopian state media outlets reported that the Ethiopian Air Force killed 70 al-Shabab members after the extremist group tried to attack Ethiopian forces.