MOGADISHU, Somalia, March 8 (UPI) -- Somali militant group al-Shabab said a U.S. report that more than 150 of its troops died in weekend airstrikes is exaggerated.
Pentagon officials announced the airstrikes occurred Saturday on an al-Shabab training camp in Rasa, Somalia, about 120 miles from the capital of Mogadishu. They said those at the camp, were preparing a "large scale attack" on U.S. and allied forces in East Africa.
The officials said a graduation ceremony was in progress at the moment of the start of the airstrikes.
But an al-Shabab official said the death toll in the attack wasn't as severe as U.S. officials said.
"The Americans are dreaming. We never gather that many of our fighters in one place," Abdulaziz Abu Musab, the group's military operations spokesman, told news organization Al Jazeera by telephone Tuesday. "We know the security situation. Yes, the attack happened and it happened at the location they mentioned, but the number they are telling the world is a lie."
He did not offer an alternate death count.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said Monday in a statement, "The fighters who were scheduled to depart the camp posed an imminent threat to U.S. and African Union Mission in Somalia forces in Somalia."
"They were standing outdoors in formation," one official said.
The United States maintains a major military base at Camp Lemonnier in neighboring Djibouti, from which the airstrikes, which included fighter planes and drones, are believed to have originated.
Al-Shabab is informally aligned with al-Qaida and has conducted a number of attacks on AMISOM bases in Somalia and neighboring countries, and on civilian targets in Mogadishu. The most recent attack was Jan. 15, when it attacked a base in El Adde, killing dozens of Kenyan troops. The Somali government said 180 soldiers were killed.