An army base in southern Somalia was struck by car bombs and gunfire in an attack claimed by the Al Shabab militant group.

Somalia has been riven by civil war since 1992, when clan-based warlords overthrew a dictator, then turned on each other.
Somalia has been riven by civil war since 1992, when clan-based warlords overthrew a dictator, then turned on each other. (Reuters Archive)

Somali military officers say at least four soldiers and a photographer embedded with the army were killed in an attack by militants on an army base in the town of Awdhegle, southwest of the capital.

General Yusuf Rage, commander of the Somali infantry division, said that troops repelled the attack in Awdhegle, a farming town recently seized by Somalia's special forces. Eight attackers were also killed in the attack.

Al Shabab claimed responsibility for the assault which started with a suicide car bomb.

A military officer said the bombs exploded outside the base, in a mid-morning attack in Awdheegle. The agricultural district along the Shabelle River is 70 kilometres southwest of the capital Mogadishu.

"The military base is surrounded with heavy sandbags. The two car bombs were fired at and so exploded outside the base," Captain Hussein Ali, a military officer in another town in the same region, told Reuters.

"There are casualties from Al Shabab and government forces but we have no exact figure. Al Shabab cut off some of the private telecommunications."

Al Shabab said it killed 50 soldiers and two of its fighters had died.

The death toll could not be confirmed from other sources.

The militant group and government officials tend to give sharply differing casualty figures for attacks.

Al Shabab is fighting the weak, UN-backed Somali government and its international allies.

It was forced out of the capital Mogadishu in 2011 and has since lost most of its other strongholds. 

But it remains a threat, with fighters frequently carrying out bombings in Somalia and neighbouring Kenya, whose troops form part of an African Union-mandated peacekeeping force that helps defend the central government.

Somalia has been riven by civil war since 1992, when clan-based warlords overthrew a dictator, then turned on each other.

Source: Reuters