At least 15 people were killed on Tuesday when heavily armed al-Shabaab militants stormed government offices and military checkpoints around the strategic town of Bal’ad.
The dawn attack prompted heavy gunfire between Somali security forces and the militants in the town, which lies just 30 kilometres north of the capital Mogadishu, said Somali government spokesman Ismael Mukhtar Omar.
“The terrorists tried to take the town completely but paid heavy prices as our security forces in the town overpowered them killing 14 militants on the spot.
“The situation in the town of Bal’ad is calm now. We lost one soldier while seven more civilians were wounded by stray bullets,” he told dpa.
In a statement, al-Shabaab claimed to have completely overrun the town briefly, saying their fighters killed dozens of government soldiers.
“The fighting flared up after militants armed with RPGs and machine-guns attacked the town,” local elder Warsame Muhyadiin told dpa.
The militants targeted local government offices including the police station and central prison in the town according to residents.
The attack comes barely a day after the militants carried out a suicide car bombing at a military base in the town of Janaay Abdalle, killing two Somali soldiers and wounding several others including a U.S. serviceman.