Ethiopia’s military says security forces killed more than 800 fighters from the Somali militant group al-Shabab after Shabab fighters launched a rare cross-border attack.
General Tesfaye Ayalew, the head of deployment for Ethiopia’s national defense forces, said more than 800 al-Shabab fighters, including 24 top leaders, were killed in recent operations against the group.
He said al-Shabab tried to infiltrate Ethiopia through the country’s eastern border but they have been “successfully thwarted by the joint efforts of the security forces.”
The president of Ethiopia’s Somali state, Mustafe Omar, said in a Twitter statement Friday that another 100 al-Shabab fighters were captured in the recent clashes. He said the group’s misadventure into Ethiopia ended with “a rout of the terrorists.”
VOA could not independently verify the figures from either official.
Other security officials in Ethiopia’s Somali state told VOA that there were heavy casualties on Ethiopia’s side and several officials, including local administrators, were captured by al-Shabab.
Late last month, hundreds of al-Shabab fighters crossed Somalia’s border with Ethiopia and clashed with specially-trained counterterrorism forces known as the Liyu police. The group entered Ethiopia at several sites from Somalia’s border regions of Hiran and Bakool.
U.S. assessments suggest the Shabab fighters may have penetrated as far as 150 kilometers into Ethiopia before being stopped.
The president of Ethiopia’s Somali state announced last week that Ethiopian forces will establish a buffer zone inside Somalia to stop further al-Shabab attacks across the border.
Authorities in Somalia’s Bakool region welcomed the announcement and said it would help stabilize the region.
Al-Shabab has been fighting the Somali government and African Union troops in Somalia for more than 15 years, carrying out attacks in Somalia and neighboring Kenya.
Experts believe that the group’s attack in Ethiopia was meant to show the group still poses a danger to Horn of African countries.
Meanwhile, on Friday, a suicide truck bomb blast targeted a military base in the Hiran region, near the Somali-Ethiopian border, that houses Turkish-trained special forces.
Officials in the region told VOA by phone that the bombing killed at least one soldier and wounded three.
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack and said more than 40 soldiers were killed or wounded.