Somali Islamist fighters have attacked a hotel in a strategic central town the militants lost control of last week.
A car bomb exploded outside the hotel in Bulo-burde where African Union (AU) peacekeepers and Somali army commanders were staying, witnesses told the BBC.
Gunfire continued for five hours and about 14 people – fighters from all sides – died, they said.
The al-Shabab Islamist group said it was behind the attack and that 30 AU and army commanders had been killed.
The authorities have yet to comment on the attack and communications to the central Hiran region went down not long after the fighting and gunfire ended, the BBC’s Ibrahim Aden reports from the capital, Mogadishu.
Al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, has waged an eight-year insurgency to overthrow the weak UN-backed government and create an Islamic state in Somalia.
Witnesses said the car blast happened at 02:00 local time (23:00 GMT) and the fighting went on till about 07:00.
About 24 people were also wounded in the raid and have been taken to hospital, they said
Our correspondent says al-Shabab had occupied Bulo-burde for more than five years.
The town, which has a strategic bridge over the River Shabelle and is at a crossroads linking various regions of the country, was an important base for al-Shabab.
Bulo-burde was captured as part of an ongoing AU and government offensive against al-Shabab, which controls much of south and central Somalia.
The 22,000-strong AU force (Amisom) is helping the government battle the militants.
Al-Shabab lost control of Mogadishu in 2011, but has intensified bombings and mortar raids in the city in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, Amisom spokesman Col Ali Adan Humad has denied there were any casualties when an Amisom convoy was attacked near its base in Arbiska outside Mogadishu.
Al-Shabab had released a statement saying that seven Burundian peacekeepers and five American nationals travelling in the vehicles were killed on Monday afternoon.
Last month, al-Shabab fighters stormed Villa Somalia, the seat of government in Mogadishu, killing at least 11 people.