Somali militant group al-Shabab launched a major attack on a key Somali town on the border with Kenya early Monday, residents said.
The attack started at dawn as militants raided the town from different directions, residents report.
Two residents in the town of Beled Hawo say the al-Shabab fighters first attacked a military base about 6 kilometers northeast of the town using a suicide car bomb followed by infantry.Sources say soldiers at the base have retreated into Kenya.
The second attack targeted a police station inside the town using same tactic, a former administration official in Beled Hawo said. A heavy gun battle was reported at the station.
Residents have seen Al-Shabab militants in the streets of Beled Hawo and sporadic gunfire can still be heard.
One resident says there was an exchange of gunfire at a border crossing linking Beled Hawo to the Kenyan town of Mandera.
The town is a key border crossing for people travelling between Somalia and Kenya.
Residents in the town say Kenyan soldiers at a military base near Mandera fired heavy artillery at al-Shabab in an attempt to keep them from crossing the border.
Residents now say al-Shabab militants left the town after Kenya military bombardment. Kenya military helicopters are also in the air.
A resident says he saw the body of one person near the police station. More casualties expected.