Somalia’s al Shabaab militants took over a town close to the capital Mogadishu on Saturday, officials said, after government troops withdrew from the area.
Bariire, in Lower Shabelle, is about 50 km (30 miles) from Mogadishu. In late August 10 Somalis – including three children – were shot dead there during a botched raid by Somali forces backed by U.S. troops.
“We captured it this morning without any resistance. The soldiers left when we advanced towards the town,” said Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military operation spokesman.
The government confirmed its seizure.
“We left Bariire for tactical reasons. We have moved to other towns,” Nur Ali, a military official, told Reuters.
The Horn of Africa country has been at war since 1991, when clan-based warlords overthrew dictator Siad Barre and then turned against each other.
For a decade, the weak U.N.-backed government has been fighting alongside African Union troops against al Shabaab, which aims to impose its own strict interpretation of Islam.