Kenya's president said on Friday that Kenyan troops were killed when al-Shabab Islamic fighters attacked an African Union base in Somalia. He gave no casualty figure but an al-Shabab spokesman said at least 63 soldiers died.
President Uhuru Kenyatta described the loss as heartbreaking.
"Regrettably, some of our patriots in uniform paid the ultimate price," he said in a statement. "I want to take this opportunity to express mine and the country's deepest sympathy to the families and loved ones of the fallen. I stand with you. Our country stands with you."
Al-Shabab spokesman Abdiaziz Abu Mudan said on the group's online radio that at least 63 soldiers were killed in the attack in southwestern Somalia that started early Friday.
It happened in the town of El-Ade, not far from the Kenyan border. Kenya has provided a major contingent to the AU force which is fighting al-Shabab, a Somali Islamic extremist group linked with al-Qaida, and assisting the elected government of Somalia. The peacekeeping mission, known as AMISOM, said in a Twitter update that it troops had been attacked but gave no more details.
Somali military official Ahmed Hassan, speaking to The Associated Press by phone from Elwak, a nearby town, said the attack started with a suicide car bomb, and then heavy gunfire was heard as militants stormed into the base.
Despite being pushed out of Somalia's major cities and towns, al-Shabab continues to launch deadly guerrilla attacks across the Horn of Africa country. AU troops, government officials and foreigners are frequently targeted.
Last September, 19 Ugandan soldiers were killed when al-Shabab fighters stormed an AU base in southern Somalia.
The group, which has ties with al-Qaida, has also carried out many deadly attacks inside Kenya.