By Abdi Sheikh
MOGADISHU (Reuters) -At least 10 soldiers were killed when Somalia's al Shabaab militants assaulted a military base in the central Galgaduud region on Monday, a military officer said, days after government forces said they had regained control of the area.
The army eventually pushed the militants out of the base in Qayib, a village captured from al Shabaab last week, defence ministry spokesperson Abdullahi Ali Anod told the state news agency SONNA.
Major Mohamed Farah, a military officer in the nearby town of Bahdo, said 10 soldiers and 20 al Shabaab fighters were killed.
"Our forces are now pursuing the al Shabaab fighters in the jungles. There is sporadic gunfire as we chase them," he said.
Ahmed Hassan, another military officer in Bahdo, told Reuters the attack began with two suicide car bombs at around 5 a.m. (0200 GMT), followed by hours of heavy fighting.
"Al Shabaab torched the telecommunication station of the town, and so it is off the air now," Hassan said.
One car bomb hit a military truck guarding the base entrance, while the other was blown up outside, he said.
In a statement, al Shabaab spokesperson Abdiasis Abu Musab said the group launched the assault in Qayib using suicide car bombs before its fighters attacked from different directions.
The fighters killed 37 soldiers and stole weapons and military vehicles, he added.
The government's and al Shabaab's casualty numbers often differ.
Government forces, supported by clan militias, have made a number of battlefield gains against al Shabaab in the last three months, regaining territory long held by the group.
In response, al Shabaab killed at least 120 people in twin car bombs at the education ministry in the capital Mogadishu on Oct. 29, the deadliest blasts in five years.
The al Qaeda-linked group has killed tens of thousands since 2006 in its fight to overthrow Somalia's Western-backed central government and implement its interpretation of Islamic law.
(Reporting by Abdi SheikhAdditional reporting by Feisal OmarWriting by Hereward HollandEditing by Tommy Reggiori Wilkes, Mark Potter, Sofia Christensen and Tomasz Janowski)