The al-Shabab group has taken control of two towns in two days in southwestern Somalia, an official and the group have confirmed, just days after its fighters attacked an African Union base in the same area.
A spokesperson for al-Shabab told Reuters that the group had seized two small towns in the Lower Shabelle region; El Saliindi, 65km south of Mogadishu, en route to the port town of Marka; and Kuntuwarey, on the road between the capital and the port of Barawe.
Ali Nur, the acting governor of Lower Shabelle, confirmed the towns had been captured.
"It is sad to say al-Shabab has taken El Saliindi. AU forces withdrew and al-Shabab now controls it," said Nur, adding that Kuntuwarey had been seized on Friday.
Also on Saturday, al-Shabab attacked an African Union convoy outside Marka, claiming they killed several soldiers in the attack. But a local official said the death toll had not been determined.
"A roadside bomb targeted an AU vehicle as the AU convoy passed in the outskirts of Marka today. We do not know details about casualties," said Nur.
On Tuesday, al-Shabab stormed an African Union base about 90km south of Mogadishu, killing at least 12 Ugandan soldiers who served as African Union peacekeepers.
The group, which often exaggerates the success of its attacks, claimed it had killed 70 people in the assault, which came roughly a year after al-Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane was killed in a US air strike.
Al-Shabab was pushed out of Mogadishu by African Union peacekeeping forces in 2011.
The group aims to overthrow Somalia's central government and establish a state based on its interpretation of Islamic law.