At least 16 people have been killed and 14 others wounded in clashes between Somali government troops and Sufi fighters, witnesses and local elders said.
The clashes on Tuesday appeared to be part of a local power struggle sparked by politicians meeting in Dhuasamareb, in the north-central Galgadud region, aimed at forging a regional government.
The confrontation between soldiers and Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jamaah fighters, usually allied to the army, erupted in the town of Guricel, 400km north of the capital Mogadishu.
“There was heavy fighting inside the town, it started in the outskirts but later spread,” local leader and elder Abdulahi Muktar said.
“There were many dead. I saw the dead bodies of 16 people, three of them civilians.”
Guricel resident Dahir Hussein said corpses were strewn in the streets, and that he had seen at least 14 wounded people taken to hospital.
“Fighting has stopped now and government troops were pushed out of the town, but there is still tension. We can hear sporadic gunfire in the suburbs of the town,” Mohamed Dhabarey, another resident said.
Local Somali army commander Abdikarim Ali said that “more than 10” people had died, and that government troops had “made a tactical withdrawal”.