At least nine people died in clashes between al-Shabaab militants and Somali and Ethiopian forces in the southern Gedo region on Saturday (January 5th), AFP reported.
Al-Shabaab fighters ambushed a convoy of several hundred Somali and Ethiopian troops that was advancing on Baardheere and Burdhubo. The ambush took place between Luq and Garbaharey, two towns lying within 100 kilometres from both the Kenyan and Ethiopian borders.
"The fighting was the heaviest in months in the region, with both sides using heavy weaponry," said Ibrahim Duale, an elder in a nearby village. "We are being told that at least nine fighters have died from the two sides."
Somali officials and al-Shabaab leaders reported differing claims on the number of casualties.
"The violent elements ambushed our forces and heavy fighting erupted that left 23 of their fighters dead," said Diyad Abdi Kalil, a Somali government official in the region. "We defeated them and our forces are now in full control of the area," he said, adding that two Somali soldiers had been injured in the fighting.
Al-Shabaab commander in the region Sheikh Mohamed Abu-Abdirahman refuted the claim. "We killed eleven of their soldiers and destroyed three of their trucks and they retreated," he told AFP.