, MOGADISHU, May 13 – At least eight people were killed overnight in clashes between pro-government forces and insurgents in central Somalia, residents and officials said on Wednesday.
The pro-government forces attacked the radical Shebab militants based in the village of Mahas, some 300 kilometres (180 miles) northeast of the capital, sparking heavy fighting in which four fighters and four civilians were killed late Tuesday.
"Local Islamist militants loyal to the government attacked Shebab fighters. Four civilians and four combatants died in the clashes," Abdi Ali Shegow, an elder told AFP by phone from the nearby town of Beledweyne.
"Four civilians including a woman were caught in the cross-fire and people started fleeing the village," Sakariye Abdiweli, another witness said.
Both warring sides claimed to have control of the contested village.
"Two of our men died and we killed many of them (rebels). We eliminated the miscreants from the village which is now in complete control of our forces," Hassan Mohamed, a commander for the pro-government militants told AFP.
But the Shebab fighters also claimed they still had control of the village.
Sheik Ahmed Abu-Yahya said by phone the pro-government forces had lost the battle. "Many of their dead are rotting on the streets."
The Shebabs who are opposed to the moderate Islamist government of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed have taken control of large swathes of central and southern Somalia.
Somalia has had no central authority since the 1991 ouster of former president Mohamed Siad Barre sparked internecine fighting.