At least six people were killed and seven others injured when militants attacked Afgoye town, southwest of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on Thursday night.
Residents say they saw heavily armed militants take up positions before storming a government checkpoint in the town.
“They were around 100 heavily armed militants. They took up positions and ordered residents to take cover in their homes before storming on a security checkpoint manned by government forces,” Mohamed Hirey, one of the residents said.
“The militants used RPGs and heavy machine guns and were shouting with 'Allahu Akbar' or 'God is greatest' as they battled with the government forces,” said another resident, Nur Yusuf Kabale.
Ibrahim Aden Ali, governor of lower Shabelle, told the VOA Somali Service government troops came under a surprise attack by militants around Maghrib (Sunset Prayer) and that the government troops managed to repel them.
“The militants have again attacked us attempting to run over a government security checkpoint, but this time we taught them a lesson,” Ali said. "Our forces briefly retreated from our post but finally managed to repulse the attackers.”
He claimed that two militants were killed and six others injured during the attack. On the government side, he said three soldiers were injured.
But multiple sources in the town have confirmed that two government soldiers, three militants and a civilian were killed, and seven others injured.
The radical Islamist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack - on Radio Andalus, its mouthpiece in Somalia. It said ‘the group’s guerrilla fighters had killed six government soldiers and had temporarily seized the town.
“Member of our jihadists have hit on an enemy checkpoint. They killed six soldiers and briefly seized the town before voluntarily withdrawing,” a statement released on the radio said.
Afgoye is an agricultural and strategic town in the Lower - Shabelle region, located 30km (18 miles) from Mogadishu.
In 2012, government soldiers and AMISOM troops drove al-Shabab out of the town following a major offensive. But in October this year, al-Shabaab attacked and seized the entire town. At least 12 people were killed in that attack.