At least 19 African Union soldiers were killed in Somalia Tuesday in a car bombing and assault on their base by militant group al-Shabab.
The death toll was provided by a high-ranking Somali official who tells VOA that a similar number of AU soldiers were apparently captured alive by the al-Qaida-linked militants.
The Islamist militants say they killed "dozens" of soldiers in the attack on the base in Jannaale, about 120 kilometers south of the capital, Mogadishu. Militants stormed the base and engaged in a gunbattle with soldiers after the car bombing around 4:30 a.m. local time on Tuesday.
The African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM, denied reports that al-Shabab seized control of the base.
Witnesses, however, tell VOA that soldiers fled to escape the attackers, and that militants blew up a bridge in the town to prevent AU reinforcements from reaching the base.
In June, al-Shabab attacked another AMISOM base in the same region, killing more than 50 soldiers from Burundi.
AMISOM forces and Somali troops have recaptured areas of Somalia from the al-Qaida-linked militants in recent years, but attacks have persisted.
VOA's Somali Service contributed to this report.