Somali troops capture key port town from al-Shabab

Barawe660Somali government troops backed by African Union (AU) forces have taken the last coastal stronghold of the al-Shabab Islamist group. But the AU told the BBC the joint forces were not yet in full control of the town, and the AU had parked its heavy armour on its outskirts. Barawe, 220km (135 miles) south-west of the capital Mogadishu, has not been run by the central government for 23 years. The AU says al-Shabab used Barawe as a base to launch attacks on the capital. Residents said many of the al-Qaeda-aligned militants had begun withdrawing from the key port town on Friday. “The situation is calm, the militiamen had fled before the forces reached the town,” regional governor Abdukadir Mohamed Nur said. Al-Shabab has lost control of several towns in the past month, but still controls large swathes of territory in rural areas. The BBC’s Emmanuel Igunza says the news is a significant blow to al-Shabab because they had used Barawe as a supply route for weapons and food and as a base for a lucrative charcoal business. The loss of Barawe – after six years under their control – comes a month after al-Shabab’s leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, was killed by a US air strike near the town. US strikes have also targeted other senior militants in and around Barawe. The group, which is estimated to have at least 5,000 fighters, wants to overthrow the UN-backed Somali government and has imposed a strict version of Sharia in areas under its control. Last week, a woman was stoned to death in Barawe for alleged adultery. Correspondents say al-Shabab tends to tactically withdraw from areas when faced with a large offensive, but leaves some fighters within the civilian population to launch attacks later. Source: BBC/hiiraan]]>

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