MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Somali government troops fighting alongside African Union troops ousted Islamic militants from a southern town they have been controlling, an official said Saturday.
Abdiqadir Mohamed Nor, the governor of Somalia's Lower Shabelle region where the fighting is taking place, said the al-Shabab stronghold of Bulomarer was seized from militants after hours of battle.
"We have finally liberated the town. The enemy elements fled," he said. "The residents have welcomed our troops because we freed them after years of oppression by the terrorists."
He gave no details about causalities.
Bulomarer is about 110 kilometers (70 miles) south of the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
Bulomarer resident Abdullahi Ali said militants fled under heavy gunfire and that the town is now quiet as government troops set up bases on its outskirts.
Military officials say the al-Qaeda-linked militants used Bulomarer to stage deadly attacks across Somalia, including in Mogadishu, and hope the military offensive dubbed "Indian Ocean" can oust al-Shabab from its last major hideouts in the southern parts of the Horn of Africa nation.
The loss of Bulomarer would leave al-Shabab's current key base of the coastal town of Barawe vulnerable to attacks.