Reports from central Somalia say fierce fighting between a pro-government militia and Islamist rebels has left at least 24 people dead and dozens others wounded.
Witnesses and officials said Wednesday the fighting a day earlier was the worst seen in months.
Witnesses say the al-Qaida-linked Al Shabab militia, which has been fighting a civil war with the government, attacked the towns of Dhusamareb and Marergur. The area has been under the control of the pro-government militia Ahlu Sunna Waljama.
The witnesses said residents fled the fighting and bodies were strewn across the villages.
Somalia's fragile central government controls only a few small parts of the capital, Mogadishu, with the help of African Union peacekeepers.
The rest of the city is controlled by the al-Shabab and fellow Islamist militant group Hizbul Islam. The two groups also control much of central and southern Somalia.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.