At least four Ethiopian soldiers were killed in southern Somalia on Saturday in an al-Shabaab suicide bombing near their base, a security official and witnesses said.
The suicide bomber rammed a vehicle loaded with explosives into a checkpoint outside the base in Bardhere.
“We have been informed that at least four Ethiopian soldiers who were manning the checkpoint died in the blast,” Muktar Abdulahi, a local security official, told AFP by telephone.
Several witnesses verified the attack.
“The blast was very heavy, and I saw the Ethiopian soldiers collecting some dead bodies after the blast. They closed the area and a military ambulance transported casualties to the base,” said one witness, Ahmed Muhidin.
Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, saying its fighters “carried out a martyrdom operation targeting the Ethiopian Christian army in Bardhere. The initial information we are getting indicates that the enemy lost 16 soldiers in the attack.”
The Ethiopian armed forces operate as part of the 20,000-strong African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
Bardhere, some 350 km west of the capital, is one of several bases in the southwest where it has troops deployed.
The al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab was largely driven out of Mogadishu in 2011.
But it retains control of rural swathes of the country and continues to wage a guerrilla war against the authorities.