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At Least 21 Killed as Somalia Battles Jihadis in Remote Area

Overview map of Somalia
Overview map of Somalia

Somalia's military repulsed an attack by jihadi fighters in a remote region of the country early Saturday, killing at least 18 of the al-Shabab militants, according to a top army official.

At least three civilians described as traditional elders were killed in the fighting near Masagaway town, General Mohamed Ahmed Taredisho said by phone.

Masagaway is in the central region of Galgadud and home to a military base. Resident Yusuf Sheikh told The Associated Press that militants overran the base, confiscated weapons and burned military vehicles during the attack.

"It was early in the morning, and (al-Shabab) completely took over the whole town, including the military base, forcing the government forces out of the town," he said.

Sheikh said several people were killed in the attack and others were missing.

Al-Shabab, which has ties with al-Qaida, opposes the Somali federal government in Mogadishu, the capital. The group intensified attacks on military bases in recent months after it lost control of territories in rural areas to government forces.

Al-Shabab members have fought for years to create an Islamic state in the Horn of Africa nation. African Union peacekeepers and occasional U.S. airstrikes on al-Shabab targets have tried to help keep the militants at bay.

Somalia also is facing its worst drought in decades. During a visit there earlier this month, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for "massive international support" for the country.