Fighting escalates between army and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa militia in Dhumasareb, capital of semi-autonomous central Galmudug region, locals say.
At least 12 people were killed and more than 20 injured on Friday in clashes in central Somalia between the army and a Sufi militia opposed to the regional administration, a local leader told AFP news agency.
Fighting broke out between the army and the Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa (ASWJ) militia on Thursday night in Dhumasareb, the capital of the semi-autonomous Galmudug region, and intensified on Friday.
"There is still sporadic gunfire and there are casualties inflicted on both sides," a local elder, Mohamed Moalim Adan, told AFP by phone.
"We are receiving information that at least 12 people had been killed, including civilians, and more than 20 others wounded so far."
Competing claims of victory
Earlier this month, the parliament of Galmudug elected Ahmed Abdi Kariye, a former minister backed by the federal government, as president of the region.
ASWJ leader Sheikh Mohamed Shakir rejected the result and declared himself president. A former Galmudug president, Ahmed Duale, also claimed victory by forming his own parliament.
"This town was peaceful for so many years but we have been expecting this," said Abukare Warsame, another elder, referring to the electoral dispute.
Warsame said the ASWJ leader remains inside the camp where the fighting started.
"More than 10 people died, and 30 others were wounded, some of whom were transported to Mogadishu for treatment," Warsame said, providing a slightly lower toll than Adan.
The violence also spread to the neighbouring town of Guriceel, where Sufi fighters temporarily took control of the police station, before handing it back to government forces.
Role in fighting insurgency
The Sufi group has played a major role in the fight against Al Shabab militants, supported by Al Qaeda, and has controlled the main cities of Galmudug for the past 10 years.
In 2017, Shakir agreed to join the regional administration but later distanced himself from it due to disagreements with its president.
He then agreed to a new election before changing his mind and accusing the federal government of manipulating the process to install one of its supporters.
Somalia has been plunged into chaos since the fall of the autocrat Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
Since 2007 the country has had to deal with Al Shabab insurgents, who have carried out numerous attacks against civilian and military targets.