Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab fighters briefly took control of a small town on the border with Kenya in a battle that left at least 12 dead, military officials and witnesses said Sunday.
Heavy fighting broke out late Saturday afternoon in Bulohawo and lasted into the evening, residents and military commanders said, with residents confirming that the Shebab took full control of the town for a few hours before Somali troops were able to reinforce their positions.
"The violent elements attacked Bulohawo in late afternoon and after heavy fighting our forces defeated them and inflicted heavy losses on them," Diyad Abdi Kalil, a Somali military commander in the area, told AFP by phone.
Casualty estimates varied but most sources agreed that at least a dozen people, most of them fighters, had been killed.
"The Shebab attacked the town from three directions and penetrated the barracks of the Somali troops after heavy fighting. They briefly took control of the town but were later forced back. Twelve people, most of them the fighters from the two sides, died," said resident Sadik Mohamed.
The attack appeared to have come as a surprise, with the Shebab having been forced out of their major strongholds by troops from the African Union force AMISOM.