Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab militants have captured two towns in central Somalia, taking advantage of the absence of either Somali or African Union forces in the area.
“Amara and Ba’adwayn are now under full control of al-Shabaab,” said a senior regional official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the DPA reported.
Local militias had also fled the area, further facilitating the capture of the territories by the Takfiri group.
According to the report, there were no Somali soldiers or African Union troops in the two towns at the time of the militant raid.
Shabaab has been behind the violence and chaos in Somalia since 2006, targeting key government and security figures in the country.
The militants have been pushed out of Mogadishu and other major cities in the African country by government troops and the African Union Mission to Somalia, known as AMISOM. However, they have continued to wage attacks in Mogadishu and other cities.
On September 19, the militants killed 12 Somali soldiers in an attack carried out south of Mogadishu.
Two days later, a Shabaab bomber rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into the gate of the presidential compound in the capital, killing 11 people.
On Friday, Somali Prime Minister Omar Sharmarke stressed the determination of his country to liberate all militant-held areas, saying al-Shabaab has been reduced to carrying out a major attack every two to three months.
The group “has lost a lot of ground” and “we are the only country that consistently has decreased this radicalization,” he noted.
“In the coming months, through this year, and beyond, we want to liberate all the remaining … areas which they occupy now,” the premier said, adding, “It is an achievable goal.”
He also said the government seeks to strengthen its military so it could take over the country’s security from the African-led mission in the next two to three years.