(CNN) -- A pro-government militia claimed Wednesday to have inflicted heavy losses on al Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab forces and recaptured a key town in central Somalia from the group.
The Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama movement claimed to have pushed al-Shabaab fighters out of Dhusomareb, about 320 km (200 miles) north of the capital of Mogadishu, in heavy fighting in the past week.
"Thanks to God, we have killed at least 99 members of al-Shabaab, including four foreigners who were white, and we inflicted the heaviest loss ever on them," Ahlu Sunna spokesman Abu Yusuf Alqaadi said.
Al-Shabaab has attempted to recruit fighters from the United States, Europe and Canada, and U.S. officials charged two men this week with attempting to fly to Somalia to join the militants. Most of the dead in the recent fighting were "very young boys brainwashed with false calls for jihad," Alqaadi said.
Dhusomareb has been a battleground between the two groups since January. Al-Shabaab has neither confirmed nor denied the report and typically remains silent about its losses.
But a Dhusomareb resident corroborated the claim, saying Ahlu Sunna had captured large amounts of ammunition and heavy weapons, and members were celebrating in the streets.
Al-Shabaab, which has pledged allegiance to al Qaeda, controls much of southern Somalia and portions of Mogadishu. Ahlu Sunna turned against it after al-Shabaab fighters destroyed the tombs of several revered leaders of the Sufi Muslim group.
Ahlu Sunna has thrown its support behind Somalia's struggling transitional government, which lost eight troops to a roadside bomb in Mogadishu on Wednesday.
Mohamed Amiim Adow contributed to this report for CNN.