Heavy fighting was reported Friday morning following car bomb attacks that hit a Kenyan Defense Force base in the Lower Jubba region, near the border of Kenya and Somalia.
News outlet Harar24 reports that Al-Shabaab fighters have overrun the base. Multiple reports from both residents and other local media said the attack at Kulbiyow, where Kenyan and Somali forces are stationed, involves at least two massive explosions.
Initial accounts say Al-Shabaab had taken control of the base, with heavy casualties reported, but a statement issued by the Kenya’s defense ministry denied that claim.
“It is important to note that the information being peddled by terrorists on social media is false and part of their propaganda,” the ministry said in a statement. Kenyan journalist Felix Asoha said dozens are feared dead in the attack, while an al-Shabaab spokesman has said the death toll stands at 51, but that number also is disputed by the KDF. There are also reports that the militants seized weapons, military vehicles and other equipment.
“We are under massive attack and there is massive exchange of fire,” a military spokesman told The Nation.
The attack has raised questions anew about the role of Kenyan soldiers in protecting Somalia, a divisive issue among Kenyans who have seen similar attacks on bases before.
It also comes as Somalia announces a new date for the presidential election, which is now set for February 8.