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Pro-government forces take town in southern Somalia

soomaliaMOGADISHU (AFP) – Pro-government Forces reclaimed control of a town in

Southwestern Somalia Thursday after Troops from the Al Qaeda-inspired



Shebab pulled out without a fight, Officials and witnesses said.

The town of Garbaharey, located in The western region of Gedo and near the borders with Ethiopia and Kenya, had been under Shebab control since 2009.

"Our forces are now fully in control of Garbaharey town, which the Al Qaeda elements emptied this morning as we approached," Mohamed Abdi Kalil, the governor of Gedo region, told AFP.

"We will continue to advance on the other towns and, God willing, we will flush them out completely," he said.

Garbaharey is the latest in a string of major towns in the region the Shebab have lost in recent weeks, as pro-government forces continue their reconquest of large areas which had been under Shebab control for two to three years.

"The government forces entered the town around midday after the Shebab militants withdrew without fighting. I saw dozens of armed vehicles patrolling in the streets," Abdullahi Haji Mohamed, a local resident, said.

Shebab officials could not immediately be reached for comment but security sources in the areas said the Islamist fighters had temporarily retreated to around 15 kilometres (10 miles) outside the town.

Somali government forces, allied local militias and the Sufi group Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa are fighting together in a bid to reconquer the country.

Until the offensive kicked off earlier this year — with African Union forces spearheading the effort in Mogadishu and support from Kenya and Ethiopia to the south — the Shebab controlled most of southern and central Somalia.

Pro-government forces gave already captured key towns in the southernmost region of Jubba while the next objective of the forces who entered Garbaharey Thursday is believed to be the town of Bardera.

The pincer movement from the regions of Gedo and Jubba leaves the southern port city of Kismayo, the Shebab’s main economic and logistical lifeline, looking increasingly isolated.


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