Somalia al Shabaab group said its fighters rammed a suicide car bomb into a base of Ethiopian troops serving with the African Union’s AMISOM force and killed 43 soldiers on Thursday.
Residents near the base in the central town of Haglan said they heard a huge explosion and then heavy exchanges of gunfire shortly before dawn.
The gun duel lasted at least an hour after the initial blast, they told Reuters.
There was no immediate comment from the AU force, made up of African nations supporting Somalia’s Western-backed government in its fight against the al Qaeda-linked militants.
AMISOM usually says it is up to troop-contributing countries to announce casualties.
In the past, casualty figures cited by al Shabaab have been much higher than official numbers.
“Our fighters stormed the Halgan base of AMISOM,” al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, Abdiasis Abu Musab told Reuters.
He said the militants used a suicide car bomb and exchanged fire with Ethiopian troops there.
He said “several” al Shabaab fighters died, but did not give a number.