Troops capture port

SOMALI Government troops backed by African Union (AU) forces have taken the last coastal stronghold of the al-Shabab Islamist group.

But the AU told the BBC the joint forces were not yet in full control of the town, and the AU had parked its heavy armour on its outskirts. Barawe, 220km (135 miles) south-west of the capital Mogadishu, has not been run by the central government for 23 years.

The AU says al-Shabab used Barawe as a base to launch attacks on the capital.

Residents said many of the al-Qaida-aligned militants had begun withdrawing from the key port town on Friday.

“The situation is calm, the militiamen had fled before the forces reached the town,” regional governor Abdukadir Mohamed Nur said.

Al-Shabab lost control of several towns in the past month, but still controls large swathes of territory in rural areas.

The loss of Barawe — after six years under their control — comes a month after al-Shabab’s leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, was killed by a US air strike near the town. US strikes also targeted other senior militants in and around Barawe.

The group wants to overthrow the UN-backed Somali Government and has imposed a strict version of Sharia in areas under its control.