At least 17 people were killed in fighting between militants from Somalia’s al Shabaab group and clan militias in the central semi-autonomous region Galmudug, residents and the group told Reuters.
Somali state-run Radio Muqdisho reported fighting in the Haradheere area, which started on Wednesday, was triggered by alleged al Shabaab conscription of teenagers into their ranks.
Al Shabaab controlled the port district for years but repeatedly clashes with local clan militias over disputes.
“Al Shabaab asked for teenagers to be recruited,” the radio reported. A tax called zakat being imposed by al Shabaab also stoked anger among residents and militias, it added.
Residents said nine militia members and al Shabaab fighters were killed in the fighting.
“We attacked al Shabaab and then, al Shabaab got many militants as reinforcement from various regions. We fought and fought till we ran out of bullets,” a local elder, Farah Ahmed, told Reuters from the Haradheere area.
Somalia has been convulsed by lawlessness and violence since 1991 when dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled.
Al Shabaab is fighting to dislodge the western-backed central government and African Union-mandated peace-keeping force AMISOM which defends it and install its own government based on its strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law.
Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman told Reuters they fought the militias because they were armed by neighbouring Ethiopia. They killed 15 militia members, he said.
“Ethiopia wants Hobyo port and is using clan militias to capture the road to Hobyo town,” he said.
Hobyo port is north-east of Haradheere. Musab said al Shabaab took all weapons from the militias during the attack.