AU forces take al-Shabab-held town

Somali government soldiers and AU troops take control of Barawe, the last major port held by armed group.

    Somali troops backed by African Union (AU) forces have retaken the al-Shabab stronghold of Barawe, key to the financing of the armed group.

    Al Jazeera's Catherine Soi, embedded with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in Barawe, said: "Special forces are securing the city. They are having people open their doors, looking for al-Shabab elements."

    Soi said that government officials and leaders of the AU force had held a meeting with locals on Monday, in a bid to gain their confidence.

    "It has been years since the people of Barawe had seen any kind of government presence so there is still a lot of fear," said Soi.

    Al-Shabab reportedly charged taxes to ships that sailed or docked at Barawe's port, raising revenues to expand its military campaign. 

    The AU said al-Shabab was using the town, which the al-Qaeda-linked fighters had held for six years, as a base to launch attacks on Mogadishu, the capital.

    On Saturday, al-Shabab commander Mohamed Abu Abdallah vowed that the fighters would maintain pressure on Somali and AU forces even if they took Barawe.

    Al-Shabab is fighting to topple Somalia's internationally-backed government, and regularly launches attacks against state targets, as well as in neighbouring countries that contribute to the AMISOM force.

    The 22,000-strong force, with soldiers drawn from six nations, has been fighting alongside government troops against al-Shabab since 2007.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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