The Somali government said its army captured a major al-Shabab base in central Somalia, marking a significant victory in its military offensive against the al-Qaida linked group.
On Friday, Somalia's army, alongside security forces from the country's central Galmudug region, entered the historic district of Elbur, about 400 kilometers (249 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu, shortly after al-Shabab militants hastily fled the district.
General Ibrahim Sheikh Muhyadin, the chief of Somalia's army, told VOA that the allied forces are currently engaged in operations to secure the district and dismantle explosive devices planted by the terrorist group.
"Despite their attempts to fight back, they were unable to resist us and eventually fled," Muhyadin told VOA.
'The country will find peace'
Elbur, located in the central Somali region of Galgaduud, has been a stronghold for al-Shabab for nearly a decade and its capture represents a significant blow to the group.
"The capture means to us that al-Shabab was defeated, and the country will find peace," Muhyadin said.
Meanwhile, the Somali government said at least 32 al-Shabab militants were killed Friday in the Lower Shabelle region during two operations conducted by government forces in collaboration with international partners, according to state media.
Fighters capture military base
In a separate development, local fighters in the Sool region, 786 kilometers (488 miles) northeast of Mogadishu, said they have captured an important military base from Somaliland, the breakaway republic of Somalia.
Fighters loyal to SSC-Khatumo said that they seized the Gojacade base — on the outskirts of Las Anod town — the scene of fighting between Somaliland forces and SSC fighters for several months.
SSC-Khatumo spokesperson told VOA that there are casualties on both sides, claiming the fighters captured weapons and dozens of soldiers as prisoners.
In a statement, Somaliland said its army withdrew from their positions in the eastern part of the Sool region for "strategic military purposes and is in the phase of reorganizing and preparing to counter the enemy." Somaliland added that some of its forces are missing after encountering difficulties in reaching their intended destinations.
The fighting in Las Anod has displaced thousands of people as regional tensions have been high for several months. The town has been under Somaliland control, but currently, the Las-Anod local leaders say they want to rejoin the federal government of Somalia.
Abdulkadir Abdulle and Abdikarim Olol contributed to this report.