An al-Shabab suicide bomber has rammed a vehicle packed with explosives into the gate of a Somali government base in Afgoye, west of Mogadishu, the capital, causing casualties.

Al-Shabab said its suicide bomber had "killed dozens" in Saturday's attack, while the police said the blast had only wounded three soldiers.

The figures could not be independently verified. Many parties in the Somalia conflict tend to exaggerate enemy losses
and minimise their own.

Government and African Union (AU) troops seized Afgoye from al-Shabab at the end of May.

The town is about 30km from Mogadishu on a key road that links the capital with al-Shabab-held regions in the south of country.

"The suicide car bomb tried to follow our vehicles entering the base. But it could not. It exploded at the gate. So far only three of our soldiers are injured," Colonel Nur Hayr, a police officer, told the Reuters news agency.

Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, the spokesman for al Shabab's military operations, said: "Our fighter managed to enter with his car bomb inside government forces base in Afgoye. We killed dozens.

"The car was heavily laden with explosives. It is a great victory for al-Shabab."

Since al-Shabab, an armed Islamist group, withdrew from the capital last August, it has increasingly turned to suicide bombers and grenade attacks to target government and AU positions.

Source: Agencies