Local reports indicate that this was one of the heaviest clashes involving the Ethiopian military; who crossed over into Somalia to engage the terrorists.
While the government’s side claims to have won the upper-hand from the exchanges, the terrorists are yet to comment on the battle.
Hassan Ibrahim Lugbur, the deputy governor of Bakool region – where the fighting unfolded – has told RFI that the clashes in Ato were in retaliation for an attack on military bases near the border between Somalia and Ethiopia last week.
At least 30 soldiers from the Ethiopian and Somali army are reported to have been among the casualties from the attack in Dhubdhure, according to official sources.
The al Qaeda-linked terrorists have conducted a series of daring attacks on official targets this year; including one on the presidential palace and the federal parliament building. At least two legislators have also been assassinated this year.
Meanwhile, African Union forces and the Somali army have reportedly apprehended 14 al Shabab militants during a battle with the terrorists in Eel-Garas last week.
Pundits say the terrorists are quickly losing ground and have been wrestled from many of their strong-holds in the urban section of Somalia in the past few years.
This has reportedly spurred the recent wave of deadly attacks on Somali officials and neighbouring countries.
Last month, Tanzania police officers uncovered several underground militia bases and a network of criminals reportedly linked to the Somali-based terrorists. About 16 people are reported to have been apprehended during the raid. The authorities say a search is underway for 25 other suspects who are believed to have since gone into hiding.
Meanwhile, the authorities have announced that police posts along the border with Somalia will be reactivated after being temporarily dismantled due to a shortage of officers last year.
Uganda’s Minister of Defence, Crispus Kiyonga, has also revealed that the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) will not be pulled out of Somalia. These remarks come following attacks on Ugandan forces; which have prompted the opposition and some commentators to call for the UPDF to be pulled out of the war-torn country.