Somalia Islamists al-Shabab ambush Ethiopia troops

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Islamist militant group al-Shabab has ambushed an Ethiopian base in Somalia, with dozens of casualties, reports say.

They attacked the base, near Yurkut village in the central region of Geddo, from two directions at dawn.

Al-Shabab claimed to have killed 73 Ethiopians, while the Somali government said it in turn killed 48 members of the militant group.

BBC correspondents say it is the most intense fighting since Ethiopian troops entered Somalia last November.

The fighting lasted for more than three hours, but correspondents say it will be difficult to verify the exact number of dead.

The attack took place between the border with Ethiopia and Baidoa, a town Ethiopian forces took last month from al-Shabab rebels.

It came hours after the African Union announced the troops would be withdrawn from Baidoa and Beledweyne, another town the Ethiopians took, by the end of April.

They will be replaced by forces from Djibouti, Uganda and Burundi, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Ramtane Lamamra said.

The militants may have been militarily weakened but with several recent attacks they are showing that they are not a spent force, says the BBC East Africa Correspondent Will Ross in Nairobi.

The UN Security Council recently voted to increase the AU peacekeeping force (Amisom) to 17,000 troops.

Kenyan soldiers also fighting al-Shabab in Somalia are due to be integrated into the Amisom force next week.

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