Al Shabaab militants attacked two military bases belonging to the Somali National Army early on Saturday morning, witnesses and the militants said.
Al Shabaab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, is made up of Islamist militants who have waged years of attacks and levied tolls on trade in a campaign to introduce strict religious law.
There was no immediate official comment or details on casualties but one military officer in the army confirmed the attacks.
“We are on the way as reinforcement,” Ahmed Abdullahi told Reuters by phone, adding that the attacks occurred at the Bariire and Awdhigle bases.
The bases, located about 100 km (60 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu, were struck by two explosions, the witnesses said.
A third explosion targeted a convoy of troops rushing to the bases from the capital after the attack, they added.
The al Shabaab said it had launched a vehicle borne suicide bomb attack on the Bariire base while simultaneously attacking the nearby Awdhigle base with a car bomb and fighters, to prevent troops stationed there from reinforcing Bariire.
“We overran Bariire base, burnt three military vehicles and took two vehicles,” Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s for military operations, told Reuters, referring to a brief occupation of Bariire.
He confirmed that a third vehicle borne explosive device hit a convoy of government troops racing from Mogadishu with reinforcements.
Reporting by Feisal Omar and Abdi Sheikh; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by William Mallard and Edwina Gibbs