Dozens of fighters from the armed group al-Shabab have attacked two towns in southern Somalia, sparking clashes with government troops that left at least 18 dead, according to a Somali military official.

Mohamed Abdullahi, a Somali military commander in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region, said the clashes on Saturday happened in Awdhegle and Mubarak townships, but that fighters were driven out after government troops launched a counter-attack.

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He gave no more details on the causalties, saying only that there were deaths on both sides, the Associated Press news agency reported.

The fighting in southern Somalia came as gunmen attacked two Somali MPs in the capital Mogadishu, killing one.

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Yusuf Mohamed Dirir died in hospital after a group of men stopped his car and proceeded to fire at him and his colleague, Abdallah Boss, who escaped unhurt.

The latest attack took place on Maka Almukarramah Boulevard, which is mostly used by government officials and African Union forces in Mogadishu.

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Despite major setbacks in 2014, al-Shabab continues to wage a deadly campaign against Somalia’s government and remains a threat in the East African region.

The group has carried out attacks in neighboring countries, including Kenya, whose military is part of the African Union force backing Somalia’s weak government.

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