AMISOM ATTACK: Somali Al-Shabab Militants Abandon Afgoye Stronghold
Somali Islamist militants have abandoned a strategic town near the capital, Mogadishu, which allowed them easy access to the city.
Residents in Afgoye told the BBC al-Shabab fighters had left because of an joint advance towards the town by government and African Union troops.
Analysts say these forces have yet to take the town, perhaps fearing a trap.
Eyewitnesses say Afgoye's main administration buildings were looted following the militants' departure.
The town's loss will be a big blow for the group, which joined al-Qaeda earlier this year.
Afgoye, 30km (18 miles) north-west of Mogadishu, lies on a strategic crossroads for routes to the north, west and south of Somalia.
It has allowed al-Shabab fighters to mount frequent attacks in the capital - despite being expelled last August from its bases there by the African Union force in the city.
Despite facing pressure on a number of military fronts, al-Shabab still controls much of the country.
The advance by Somali government troops, backed by African Union forces in tanks, began early on Tuesday.
The forces have avoided using the main road linking Mogadishu to Afgoye as this stretch of land - known as the Afgoye corridor - is home to up to 400,000 people who have fled years of fighting and are now living in makeshift camps.
Army commanders have told the BBC they have approached Afgoye over scrub land.
Despite these precautions, people living in the Afgoye corridor have been fleeing in their thousands either towards Mogadishu or Afgoye town.
A resident in Afgoye town said that office equipment and food were looted from buildings previously occupied by al-Shabab on Thursday evening.
The Horn of Africa nation has been without an effective central government since 1991 and has been racked by fighting ever since - a situation that has allowed piracy and lawlessness to flourish.
On Wednesday evening, leaders of disparate Somali factions agreed to a timetable that will elect a new president by 20 August, ending the transition period of the UN-backed interim government.
Rate this article
Updated on 2013-06-04 10:39
|We Buy||We Sell|
|Cash||South African Rand||280||295|