Mogadishu - Several Somali soldiers were killed overnight on Sunday when Shabaab fighters attacked a base in the southern Kismayo region, officials and witnesses said on Monday.
The attack is the latest in a string of assaults by the al-Qaeda-affiliated insurgents, who last week stormed a base manned by the African Union forces in Somalia (Amisom), killing dozens.
Heavy gunfire was reported late on Sunday for several hours, with the Shabaab briefly taking over the camp near Kismayo and beheading some of those captured before looting supplies and leaving, witnesses said.
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"There was heavy fighting that left several of the soldiers dead," said security official Abdirashid Moalim, speaking from Kismayo.
"There were machine guns and rockets, and the fighting ended when the soldiers were overpowered," said Abdi Bakar, a witness, who said he had seen nine bodies.
The Shebab is fighting to overthrow Somalia's Western-backed government which is propped up and protected by the 22 000-strong Amisom force.
On Friday, the Shabaab attacked an Amisom base in Lego village, 100km northwest of the capital Mogadishu, manned by around 100 Burundian soldiers.
The Shebab later boasted of having killed 80 soldiers, and carried off the bodies of 60 of them.
Witnesses reported seeing dozens of bodies, but there has been no formal confirmation of casualties and the toll was not possible to independently confirm.
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Under military pressure at home, Shabaab is increasingly turning its attention to Kenya where it has launched a string of recent deadly assaults, as well as focusing on guerrilla style warfare in Somalia.
The Islamic militants commonly step up their attacks during Islam's holy fasting month of Ramadan. On Wednesday six people were killed in a suicide attack in Mogadishu on a diplomatic convoy from the United Arab Emirates.