Islamist suicide bomber attacks Ethiopian troops in Somalia

Islamist suicide bomber attacks Ethiopian troops in Somalia

MOGADISHU - Agence France-Presse
Islamist suicide bomber attacks Ethiopian troops in Somalia

A Ugandan gunner serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) ranges a scope on a heavy machine-gun mounted on the roof of Mogadishu University in this handout photograph released by the United Nations-African Union Information Support Team dated January 23, 2012. REUTERS photo

An Islamist suicide bomber from the Al-Qaeda linked Shebab blew himself up Tuesday at an Ethiopian army base inside the central Somali town of Beledweyne, officials and insurgents said Tuesday.

"There was a heavy explosion that shook the whole the city, it occurred at a base where Ethiopian forces are stationed," local security official Mohamed Osman told AFP. "The suicide bomber was shot by security guards before reaching the gate and he blew up the vehicle. We are still investigating," he added.

Hardline Shebab officials said several Ethiopians were killed in the blast in Beledweyne, a large town about 30 kilometres (20 miles) from Ethiopian border, but the claims could not be verified.

"One of the mujahideen fighters carried out a suicide mission and destroyed the biggest base of the Christian troops from Ethiopia, many of them are dead now," said a Shebab commander, who asked not to be named.

"I saw fire and smoke rising up in the sky but no one can go close to the area now, the Ethiopians sealed off the area," he added.

Coloumns of Ethiopian troops crossed the border into Somalia in November and wrested control of Beledweyne alongside Somali anti-Shebab forces earlier this month.

The Shebab say they have bolstered positions around the town, which lies on a strategic crossroads and is a vital trade lifeline for rebels who are also under attack in Somalia's south and in the capital Mogadishu.