JANAALE, Somalia, Sept. 1 (UPI) -- Al-Shabab militants overran a military base in southern Somalia before African Union forces were able to regain control over the facility on Tuesday, according to the AU.
A statement by the African Union Mission in Somalia, or AMISOM, indicates the militants conducted a coordinated car bomb and infantry attack on the base in Janaale, in the Lower Shabelle region of the country.
"Although our troops undertook a tactical withdrawal following the initial vehicle borne explosive attack, they have since consolidated and regained full control of the base," the statement read, adding that officials had yet to verify official casualty figures due to the "complex nature of the attack."
The BBC quoted nearby residents as saying they counted the bodies of 20 AU soldiers in the base, which is run by Ugandan troops, and that they witnessed AU forces return after the militants left with captured weapons.
The AU statement noted that AMISOM head Ambassador Maman Sidikou "commiserates with the government and people of Uganda on the losses suffered during this heinous attack."
Sidikou condemned the attack and "praised the heroism of the peacekeepers" who were killed, adding they "paid a worthy price while serving the people of Somalia."
Xinhua news agency quoted the militants as saying they killed 50 AU troops in the assault. The Chinese state press service cited another source who said about 20 had been captured.
The incident comes amid recent reports of the Somali government and AU forces battling al-Shabab militants in southern portions of the country.
On Sunday, police are reported to have arrested several suspected members of al-Shabab during an operation in the town of Bardere, in southern Somalia's Gedo region.
On Aug. 25, Somalia's military said it killed 12 of the militants during a battle for the town of Garbaherey, also in Gedo.
AU forces in July said they killed 25 al-Shabab militants who assaulted the Rage Celle district in southern Somalia.
Human Rights Watch meanwhile called for an investigation into an incident on July 31 in which Ugandan AU forces allegedly killed six civilians at a wedding in the southern port town of Merca -- eight miles from Janaale -- following a bomb attack on their convoy.
Al-Shabab is an al-Qaida-affiliated Islamic terrorist group that took over most of southern Somalia before losing its main strongholds during battles with Somali and Ethiopian troops in 2006. Since then, the group has conducted a series of attacks across Somalia and neighboring Kenya.