Somali troops and African Union forces have recaptured a number of towns from al-Shabab militants in what they say is a renewed effort to dislodge the group from its strongholds in the country.
One of the areas is the town of Burdhubo, which was one of al-Shabab's biggest bases in southern Somalia. Troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM, and the Somali National Army retook control there Sunday after a day of fighting.
Colonel Ali Hamud, an AMISOM spokesman, told VOA that the al-Shabab fighters are mainly retreating when they see AMISOM forces, but that it remains to be seen if they are planning to instead engage in guerrilla warfare.
"We're expecting anything that can happen, and we are prepared for that," said Hamud.
Other towns the Somali army and AMISOM have reclaimed since Friday include Weel Dheyn, Wajid, Rabdhure Ted and Hudur. They are in the Gedo and Bakool regions next to the Ethiopian border and a few hundred kilometers from Somalia's capital, Mogadishu.
Hamud told VOA the operation will continue, but could not say how long.
"It will depend on the different sectors, but I am sure we are going to succeed and we have many other towns to capture as soon as possible," said Hamud.
Meanwhile, al-Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane has issued an audio message calling for jihad against what he called, "Ethiopian and other AMISOM intervention."
AMISOM has more than 22,000 troops and police, with Ethiopia contributing about 4,400 troops to the effort to help stabilize Somalia.
Al-Shabab at one point controlled large parts of the country, but was pushed out of major cities by African Union forces and the Somali government. The group still controls other areas and continues to carry out attacks, including recent bombings in Mogadishu.
The al-Qaida-linked group wants to turn Somalia into an Islamic state.