Members of the Islamist al-Shabab militia took control of the port town of Marka only hours after the African Union troops and Somali forces left. This is the first major gain for the Islamists after months of retreat.
Somali authorities confirmed that the militiamen had taken the port city of Marka on Friday, without explaining why the African Union (AU) troops had pulled out.
"Masked men from al-Shabab with heavy weapons are in full control of the town," resident Deeq Muse said.
The Islamist group also announced that the town was taken without fighting, according to a broadcast on the pro-insurgent radio station Andalus. However, there was no immediate comment from theAU mission
in the troubled African country.
The southern town of Marka is a strategic port and the hub of the Lower Shabelle region. Its permanent loss would deal a heavy blow to security forces fighting the extremist militia.
Car bomb hits Mogadishu
Authorities, supported by some 22,000 AU troops, have waged an almost decade-long battle against the insurgents. Most of the al-Shabab members are loyal to al Qaeda, although a fraction has recently switched pledged loyalty to the "Islamic State."
The militants have lost a considerable ground since the security forces ousted them from Mogadishu in 2011. Still, the group continues to stage regularterror strikes
on the so-called "soft targets" in Somalia.
Also on Friday, a car bomb exploded killing three people in the Somali capital. The blast apparently targeted an airport official, who escaped unharmed.
dj/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)