*UPDATES WITH CLAIM ETHIOPIA FORCES KILLED 120 OF SOME 250 AL-SHABAAB MILITANTS
By Magdalene Mukami and Seleshi Tessema
NAIROBI / ADDIS ABABA (AA) - Some 250 Al-Shabaab militants Thursday attacked Ethiopian troops working under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) before being driven back, mission officials and the Ethiopian government said.
The Ethiopian government said some 120 terrorists – nearly half the attack force – had been killed in the attack.
No Ethiopian casualties were mentioned, but an AMISON source unofficially rebuffed terrorist claims of more than 40 soldiers killed.
“Some 250 heavily armed al-Shabaab militants attacked our base early in the morning and we repulsed the attack,” said Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman Tewolde Mulugeta.
“The Ethiopian force is attacking the militants, who are retreating in disarray,” he added.
The Ethiopian army also captured and destroyed a cache of weapons, which included heavy machine guns, RPGs, and anti-aircraft guns, Tewolde said.
In a statement posted on social media, AMISOM also confirmed the dawn attack.
"We can confirm there was an attempted Al-Shabaab attack on the AMISOM/SNA [Somali National Army] base in Halgan, Somalia. The enemy was successfully repulsed," AMISOM said.
“AMISOM troops and SNA jointly drove back the attackers, who are now on the run with the joint forces in pursuit [in] Halgan, Somalia. An assortment of weapons has been captured as the joint forces overpowered the attackers. More details to follow.”
A senior AMISOM official who spoke to Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking with the media denied Al-Shabaab’s claims to have killed more than 40 soldiers.
Residents of Somalia’s Halgan district, in the central Hiran region, posted on social media that they heard a loud explosion followed by heavy gunfire coming from the direction of the Ethiopian military base.
One comment posted on Twitter reads, “Massive car bomb targets Ethiopia military base in Halgan town, then Al-Shabaab fighters stormed the base.”
Al-Shabaab-run radio Andalus claimed Thursday that the al-Qaeda-affiliated militants had killed 43 Ethiopian soldiers.
It said most of them had died in an explosion. The publication printed photos of alleged dead Ethiopian soldiers lying on the ground, boots lined up with their weapons in front of the bodies.
Calls seeking comment from an Al-Shabaab spokesman were not returned.
*Anadolu Agency correspondent Hassan Isilow contributed to this report from South Africa.