By Katharine Houreld
NAIROBI (Reuters) - Burundi's military said on Wednesday 10 of its African Union (AU) peacekeepers were killed in an attack on their base in Somalia, while a security source in the region and a Mogadishu-based source said dozens were dead.
Burundi state television quoted army spokesperson Floribert Biyereke saying that 25 other soldiers were wounded in Tuesday's raid on a camp near the village of El Baraf in central Somalia, while 20 "al Shabaab terrorists" were also killed.
The security source in the region said several follow-up operations were going on after al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants overran the camp the previous day. The total number of casualties was not yet clear, he said, but "dozens" of soldiers were killed and about 20 were evacuated with wounds.
The AU and troop-contributing countries such as Burundi, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia typically do not release casualty numbers after attacks. Neither Burundi nor the AU responded to requests for comment on casualties.
Somalia is preparing to hold a long-delayed presidential election this month. Political rivalries have split the security services, distracting them from the fight against the al Shabaab insurgency and sometimes spilling into gunbattles between rival factions.
The attack is unlikely to cause any withdrawals from the peacekeeping mission, the Mogadishu-based security source said.
The AU has fought many bloody battles against al Shabaab since it arrived in Somalia at the end of 2007.
In turn, al Shabaab has launched deadly attacks not just in Somalia but within the region, killing hundreds of civilians in Kenya and Uganda.
The regionally-based source verified the authenticity of a video showing five soldiers lying dead - most had been stripped of their boots - as Somalis wandered inside the perimeter of the base, about 130 km (80 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu. One soldier appeared to have been beheaded.
Other pictures and videos shared online - not verified by Reuters - appeared to show people looting a military base and equipment consistent with AU forces.
The regionally-based source said there had been between 150-200 Burundian soldiers on the base, but no Somalis because Monday was the Muslim Eid holiday.
More than 100 soldiers had been accounted for, he said, adding that Tuesday's assault was the deadliest since a 2017 attack on a Kenyan base in the town of Kolbiyow.
(Reporting by Katharine Houreld and Nairobi newsroom; Writing by Katharine Houreld and Hereward Holland; Editing by Edmund Blair, Alex Richardson, Alexandra Hudson)