MOGADISHU: Somali government troops and allied militia have wrested control of an Islamist Shebab stronghold in the south of the country after reported bombing by military aircraft on Saturday, officials and witnesses said.
Witnesses said troops from the Western-backed government, as well as gunmen from the pro-government Ras Kamboni militia, took control of the southern Somali town of Qoqani in the Lower Juba region, which borders Kenya.
“The government forces took control of Qoqani after heavy shelling on the positions of the Shebab and their affiliates,” said Abdurrahman Mohamed, a government security official.
“The enemy is lost and we will continue pursuing them,” he added.
The official did not specify the form of the shelling, but witnesses said there had been aerial bombardment in Qoqani late Saturday before Shebab troops pulled out of the town.
“Several aircrafts dropped bombs on the jungle area of Qoqani causing heavy explosions, and the Shebab withdrew from the town without face-to-face fighting,” said Sugule Ali, an elder in a nearby village.
The US military has carried out a number of attacks in recent years against Al-Qaeda militants believed to be hiding in Somalia, including using unmanned drones.
Neighbouring Kenya on Saturday vowed to pursue across the Somali border armed kidnappers responsible for a spate of abductions of foreigners, that Nairobi blames on the Al-Qaeda inspired Shebab.
Kenyan military aircraft and helicopters were reported along the frontier with Somalia late Saturday as forces search for two Spanish aid workers abducted from the Dadaab refugee camp on Thursday.