Somali government and African Union peacekeeping troops have captured a town in the south of the country from al Shabaab insurgents on Friday, the second seizure this week, government officials and the group said.
Ethiopian troops in the African Union peacekeeping mission (AMISOM) and Somali soldiers captured Dinsoor district, about 120 km to south west of Baidoa.
The group, which wants to impose its strict interpretation of Islam on Somalia, has been forced out of its major strongholds by the African and Somali forces but continues to launch bomb and gun attacks against officials and politicians.
“With the help of AMISOM, we have captured Dinsoor district today without resistance from al Shabaab. We have been fighting them outside the town in the past few days. They have deserted it,” Major Aliyow Ibrahim, a Somali officer, told Reuters.
Al Shabaab, which said it had controlled the town for seven and a half years, confirmed its fighters had left the town.
“After nine days of fighting within a distance of 80 km, the enemies have entered Dinsoor district and we are just on the edges of the town,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, told Reuters.
“This is not a victory for AMISOM. We have retaken the towns and villages between Baidoa and Dinsoor, which the enemies passed as they advanced,” he said.
Somali and AMISOM troops have been fighting al Shabaab to wrest control from areas it holds in central and southern Somalia over the past weeks. Residents said they had left Dinsoor as AMISOM and government forces advanced.
“We did not want to get caught up in the battle between AMISOM and al Shabaab. We have moved to the nearby villages for safety,” Dinsoor resident Halima Elmi, a mother of three, told Reuters on Friday.
(Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Tom Heneghan)