Al-Shabab militants briefly captured an army base in southern Somalia Friday — the latest of several high-profile attacks the group has carried out this month.
Ali Nur, deputy governor of the Lower Shabelle region, told VOA's Somali Service that militants attacked and took control of the Yaqbariweyne army base, about 120 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu.
He said Somali soldiers managed to retake the base after fierce fighting with the militants.
Al-Shabab says it killed 13 soldiers in the battle, while witnesses put the number of soldiers killed at nine.
On Thursday, Al-Shabab seized the military base of Jannale, just 65 kilometers south of Mogadishu, after African Union soldiers unexpectedly vacated the base. Militants killed at least 19 Ugandan soldiers in a raid on a base earlier this month.
Also Thursday, at least three Somali soldiers were killed in the southern port city of Kismayo when a bomb planted by al-Shabab exploded in a military camp.
Speaking to Reuters news agency, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud acknowledged that al-Shabab has retaken some villages but said they are not "strategic places and important."
Al-Shabab controlled most of southern Somalia as recently as 2010, but was pushed into the countryside by African Union and Somali government forces.
The group seeks to impose a strict form of Islamic law on the country and has frequently beheaded, stoned to death or amputated the limbs of people accused of various crimes.
On Monday, the bodies of three men beheaded by al-Shabab were found in the central Hiran region. Locals said the militants had accused two of the men, who were brothers, of spying for the Somali government. The third man was unidentified.
VOA's Somali Service contributed to this report.