After weeks of relative calm in Somalia, a convoy carrying three ministers has been attacked, while fierce fighting has erupted near the militant base of Jowhar, officials say.
The ministers of defence, interior and justice were unharmed after a landmine exploded under a vehicle near the port of Merca, they say.
A governor told the BBC there had been a two-hour gunbattle near Jowhar.
This is the biggest town under the control of al-Shabab Islamists.
The al-Qaeda linked group has been driven out of most urban areas over the past two years still controls many rural areas of the country.
Middle Shabelle governor Abdi Jiinow told the BBC Somali service that al-Shabab had now gathered its forces around Jowhar, 90km (55 miles) north of the capital, Mogadishu, in order to defend the town.
He said three soldiers and 15 al-Shabab fighters had been killed in the fighting, which he said was the fiercest in the area for several months since pro-government advanced on the town.
The militant group has not yet commented on the fighting there.
But its Twitter feed said it had carried out the ambush on the ministerial convoy near Merca, south of Mogadishu.
It said several people had been killed – a claim backed by some independent sources in the area.
The area’s deputy governor told the BBC that four police officers escorting the ministers had been badly wounded.
Alongside the recent military gains, a new president took office in September, raising some hopes of a return to law and order after two decades of anarchy.
- Accra is second most expensive city in the world – Survey
- Complete abandoned E-block if you are frustrated – Akufo-Addo tells Aflao chief
- Shatta Wale remanded in police custody for one week
- Lil Win unites with Funny Face at Kaneshie District Court
- Kofi Kinaata drops visuals for Thy Grace singles
- Google agrees to integrate Ghana’s GPS into Google map system – Bawumia
- Ambassador to Italy, Eudora Quartey-Koranteng has died
- ‘I made a mistake’ – Akufo-Addo apologises for Cape Coast harbour comment
- Prof Nana Aba Appiah Amfo is 1st female Vice-Chancellor of University of Ghana
- Ursula Owusu-Ekuful could be NPP’s running mate in 2024 – Kwesi Pratt hints
Stop condoning with foreign tile makers to shortchange Ghana – Mireku Duker to illegal clay miners
What makes a successful entrepreneur? – SamBoad Group CEO tells young Ghanaians
OccupyGhana’s letter to Special Prosecutor on unconstitutional time extension for public officers’ assets/liabilities declaration
MTN Group receives recognition on Fortune’s Change the World list
Ghanaian teachers are among the best in the world – Yaw Adutwum
Exports, fixed investment to contribute 0.8% to GDP in 2021 – Report
Fire guts house at Kwamo
Africa Makeup Fair, Awards slated for November
Pornhub owner settles with Girls Do Porn victims over videos
Paris Hilton pushes for US youth care abuse reform
Tax cheat schemes cost governments billions
Apple unveils new computer chips amid shortage
Squid’s Victory? China streaming site accused of copying Squid Game
NCCE lacks resources to sensitise voters about their rights – Prof Gyampo
Biennial World Cup: European nations boycott not discussed – Fifa’s Gianni Infantino