At least five people were killed and 12 others wounded Saturday in heavy fighting between Somali National Army soldiers and al-Shabab militants in the Bakol region of southwestern Somalia, officials said.
Somali army officials told VOA that the militants had attacked a government military base in el-Lahelay village, about 20 kilometers west of Hudur, the provincial capital of the region.
The militants used machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades to assault the base from different directions at midday Saturday, engaging in a fierce gunbattle with Somali troops for about an hour, officials said.
On the condition of anonymity, witnesses told a VOA reporter in the region that they saw the bodies of at least five combatants, some from each side. No civilian casualties were reported.
Meanwhile, a cease-fire was brokered between two rival clan militias near the central Somali city of Beledweyne, about 325 kilometers north of Mogadishu — a move intended to end several days of fighting that killed at least 25 people.
The Somali National Army and forces loyal to Ahlu-Sunna Wal Jama (AWJ), a central Somalia-based paramilitary group consisting of moderate Sufis opposed to radical Islamists, have been deployed between the warring clan militias belonging to the Habar Gidir and Hawadle of Hawiye subclans. They have been fighting over pastures and land.
“Now we have succeeded in moving the rival militias away from the front line where they have been fighting. We sent troops to go between them, and I hope the fighting will be over,” said Mohamed Ali Adle, a senior government official involved in the peace effort.