At least three soldiers were killed and several others wounded Saturday when rival Somali government forces clashed in the southern Somali town of Baidoa, officials and witnesses said.
Clashes erupted when a regional soldiers unit clashed with another unit from a rival subclan over a dispute between two candidates for Somalia's upcoming lower house election, multiple sources told VOA.
"The clashes broke out this morning when two units of our regional soldiers clashed. At least three soldiers have died and four others are injured. Another unit of our troops were sent to go between them, and the fighting is now over," Abdifitah Ibahim Geesey, regional administrative security minister, said.
Geesey declined to give details on what triggered the clash between the troops.
Mohamad Aden Malaq, a witness, said he saw the bodies of three soldiers and four wounded people at the Baidoa hospital.
Located about 250 kilometers northwest of Mogadishu, Baidoa is the capital of Bay region and the current base of Somalia's South West State.
Analysts have said disputes over the election preparations and results may ignite similar clashes between supporters of opposing candidates.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people who fled from Qandala, a Red Sea town that was seized by pro-Islamic State militants on Wednesday, arrived Saturday near Bosaso, Puntland's commercial port town.
Said Waberi Abdirahman, who organized humanitarian aid for those who fled Qandala, told VOA on Wednesday that he had witnessed increased human suffering in the coastal regions.
"We have witnessed about 600 families in Buru village, 60 kilometers east of Bosaso, including mothers with infants, who fled from the militants for their life. They walked [through] about 50 miles of hard terrain and mountains," Abdirahman said.
He said other Buru residents fled Saturday after two military ships neared the shore and fighter jets flew over the city.
Somalia has been without a functioning central authority since the 1991 ousting of strongman Mohamed Siad Barre. Subsequent governments have not been able to maintain control.