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UPDATE as of Friday at 02:00am local time: Bargal is now calm and under the control of Puntland forces. Ras Aseyr militia are now 10km east of Bosaso.
At least 3 people were killed and 5 others wounded during fierce fighting between troops from newly formed state of Ras Aseyr and forces loyal to the former mayor of Bargal, Ahmed Gurey, in Bargal district of Bari region in Somalia's semi-autonomous region of Puntland, with each side blaming the other for starting the fight.
Residents told Somalia Report that the fighting broke out around 6:00pm local time and continued through the night in the suburban areas of Bargal. The fighting reportedly spread to the mountains around Bargal and both sides were using heavy weapons.
All business centers were closed and local residents remained in their homes, according to witnesses who spoke to Somalia Report.
Abdi Wahab Omar, a peace elder in Bargal, said he could hear the sounds of weapons and that electricity in the city is out.
Abdi Rashed Hashi Osman, the spokesman of the newly formed state of Ras Aseyr, told Somalia Report that Puntland forces using at least 11 armed vehicles (called 'technicals') attacked the district this evening, but that his forces were able to defend themselves.
He also pointed out that the Puntland government has been planning over the past several days to launch an attack on the two main cities of Ras Aseyr, Bargal and Alula.
Meanwhile the former mayor of Bargal district who is leading the Puntland forces told Somalia Report that they did not attack; instead, he claimed that local militias opened fire on his vehicle and his men returned fire in self-defense.
He further claimed that several Puntland ministers, security officials and the mayor of Bari region were attacked by local militia as they traveled in their vehicles between Alula and Bargal this week.
Sources close to the President of Puntland Dr. Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, said the president ordered the attack to recapture the district and get back his office in Bargal.
It is unclear who is currently controlling the district.
Puntland does not welcome the newly formed state and were accused of cutting off telecommunications in Ras Asyer in May.
Meanwhile, in a separate incident, at least 11 pirates were arrested while one female civilian was injured after Puntland security forces and pirates exchanged fire in Bargal district of Bari region after evening prayers, according to MB Khalif, a local journalist touring with a Puntland delegation.
"11 of the pirates have been arrested and 1 civilian has been injured. The situation is very tense in the town," he said.
Other reports indicate that 20 pirates were arrested in the operation.
“Our forces captured 10 pirates in the outskirts of (Bargal) town and 10 pirates within the coastal town,” Puntland’s security minister Security Minister Gen. Khalif Issa Mudan told Radio Garowe.
Puntland officials told Somalia Report that they will intensify the security operation to restore order to the town.
The exchange of fire comes after a delegation from Puntland, led by the security minister, toured pirate hubs in Bari region in an attempt to create plans to combat piracy.
It's not clear what prompted this latest incident between the security forces and the pirates.