Kenyan forces pulled out of two towns in southern Somalia on Tuesday and Islamic extremists quickly moved into one of them, residents said.
The Kenyans' withdrawal came after an attack by Islamic extremists who claimed to have killed many Kenyan peacekeepers recently, residents said Tuesday.
The town of El-Ade, where the January 15 attack happened, is “no man's land now'' after Kenyan troops started withdrawing early Tuesday and heading toward the Kenyan border, said resident Ahmed Hassan. He said many residents started returning to their homes after the Kenyans left.
Residents of Badhadhe, another town in Somalia's Lower Jubba region, told The Associated Press that Kenyan forces stationed there had also withdrawn toward the border. Following the Kenyans' withdrawal from Badhadhe, militants from the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab took over and started searching homes, according to resident Mohamed Ali.
Kenyan officials have not said how many troops were killed in the attack on Kenyan forces in El-Ade, but al-Shabab claimed to have killed about 100 Kenyan soldiers. Al-Shabab also claimed its fighters seized armaments and military vehicles in that attack.
Al-Shabab opposes Kenya's military presence in Somalia and has carried out many attacks inside Kenyan territory.
Despite being pushed out of Somalia's major cities and towns, al-Shabab continues to launch deadly guerrilla attacks across the Horn of Africa country. The group frequently targets African Union troops, government officials and foreigners.