Fierce fighting broke out on Friday in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, as government and African Union troops tried to disarm a powerful warlord.
Witnesses reported at least five dead, with other reports putting the death toll at at least 15.
“Government forces and African troops are conducting security operations in Mogadishu, and this morning militiamen confronted them,” government security official Mohamed Yusuf said.
Gunfire and heavy explosions were reported before dawn, with witnesses saying both sides had used rocket-propelled grenades.
The fighting erupted when government troops backed by the AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM) tried to seize weapons from powerful militia leader Ahmed Dai as part of a disarmament campaign launched earlier this month.
In comments reported by AFP news agency, Dai told reporters that the only guns he had were for “self-defense.” He said he and fellow militiamen had fought back when AMISOM and security forces raided his house.
After decades of armed conflict, Somalia is awash with weapons, many of them in the hands of politicians and local leaders who command what are virtually their own private armies.
The fragile security situation in the country is further undermined by hardline al Shabab Islamist militants, who are trying to topple Somalia’s internationally backed government.