At least 17 people were killed on Monday in clashes between Somali government forces and al-Shabaab militants in a town on the Kenyan border, the military said, adding that the forces managed to recapture the area.
The forces regained control of a military base in Balad Hawo early on the morning after a Shabaab car suicide bombing earlier during the day.
“We were awoken by a suicide car bomb this morning and then fierce battle followed,” Major Mohamed Abdullahi told Reuters from the town.
“We chased al Shabaab out of the town,” he said.
Al-Shabaab spokesman Abdiasis Abu Musab said the group’s fighters left the town after releasing 35 prisoners from the local jail. At least 30 soldiers were killed, he said.
According to the military official, at least 10 soldiers and seven al-Shabaab extremists were killed, though the death toll on both sides could still rise.
Residents confirmed fighting had ended and that the extremists had left the town.
“Now Balad Hawo is calm and government forces fully control it,” Ahmed Hassan, a resident of the town told Reuters.
Hassan said he saw 13 bodies collected from the military base.
Formed in 2006, al-Shabaab wants to topple the Western-backed government and impose its own rule. Somalia has been at war since 1991 when clan-based warlords overthrew dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other.
Al-Shabaab carry out frequent attacks on security and government targets, but also on civilians. They also target African Union peacekeeping troops.
On Sunday, a Somali police officer said a suicide bomber blew himself up near a government office in a central Somali town, killing at least four people.
Colonel Sabrie Ahmed said the bomber apparently intended to enter the regional administration's headquarters in Beledweyne, the provincial capital of Hiran province, but instead detonated an explosive belt strapped around his waist in a teashop outside the offices.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. However, Somalia's extremist insurgents, al-Shabaab, often carry out such attacks.