Mogadishu - Heavily-armed al-Shabaab fighters seized control of a Somali town near the Kenyan border on Friday after an attack on an army base that left several soldiers dead, local officials and residents said.
At least a dozen people, most of them soldiers, were killed in the fighting that began in late afternoon and lasted more than an hour in the town of Elwak.
Defeated Somali troops retreated towards the border some 3km away, leaving the jihadists in control, the sources said.
"There was heavy fighting in Elwak this afternoon. Shabaab militants attacked the military base of the Somali national army in the suburbs," said Somali military official Abdukadir Elmi. "We don't have the details yet but there were casualties".
Witnesses said fighting lasted into the evening when the militants took full control of the town.
"Shabaab fighters took control of Elwak town after storming the military base," said resident Omar Adan.
Large quantities of munitions
"More than 10 soldiers were killed in the fighting including the commander of the camp," he said.
A statement on the jihadists' Andalus radio telegram account claimed control of the town and said dozens of troops had been killed.
Another witness said the jihadists had entered the town disguised as Kenyan soldiers.
"They were riding in military vehicles they captured from the Kenyan army during the El-Ade attack," said witness Abdi Samow. "They stormed the main army base on the outskirts of town leaving 12 dead."
In January, the al-Qaeda aligned jihadist group razed a base run by the Kenyan contingent of Amison - the African Union Mission in Somalia - in El-Alde in the south, seizing arms and large quantities of munitions.
It was their third assault in months on an Amison base.
In its latest attack barely a fortnight ago, at least five people were killed in Mogadishu when jihadists exploded a suicide car bomb outside a popular hotel close to the presidential palace.
The Shabaab, which was forced out of the capital five years ago, continues to launch attacks against government, military, civilian and foreign targets in its fight to overthrow the internationally-backed government.
The group is expected to try and violently disrupt elections due to be held in September and October.
The jihadists have also staged repeated attacks in Kenya and a recent security analysis warned the group was expanding its horizons with cells active in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda as well as Somalia.