A pre-dawn raid by the terrorist group al-Shabaab on a military base in southern Somalia has left at least 18 people dead, officials told dpa on Sunday.
"We have lost five soldiers in this terrorist attack. Our troops have also killed 13 militants," Somali military official Mohamed Abdi said.
The incident was the latest in a series of insurgent attacks across south and central regions of the volatile East African country. It took place in the Lower Shabelle province, on the outskirts of the regional capital Marka.
The attack started with a suicide car bombing at the entrance of the military base, Abdi said. A local government official, Abdullahi Ali Ahmed, told dpa by phone that the gun battle between the two sides had lasted about two hours.
Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack. The group said it had killed more than 20 soldiers and captured the base briefly, looting military items and ammunition. No independent sources were available to verify these claims.
Speaking to local media in the capital Mogadishu, army chief Odowaa Yusuf Rage confirmed the morning assault but said his troops overpowered and repelled the militants, killing several of them.
Al-Shabaab, which is affiliated with the international al-Qaeda terrorist network, regularly launches attacks within Somalia.