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Key Somali Town Retaken from al-Shabab

This handout picture released by the AU-UN Information Support Team shows Ugandan soldiers, part of the African Union Mission in Somalia, firing towards Shabab fighters iin the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia, August 30, 2014. (AFP/AMISOM handout/Tobin Jones)

Somali and African Union (AMISOM) forces have re-taken the southwestern town of Bulomarer and several neighboring villages as part of an offensive against al-Shabab in the country's Lower Shabelle region.

Lower Shabelle governor Abdikadir Mohamed Nur told VOA's Somali service that allied forces secured the town on Saturday after overpowering fighters with the al-Qaida-linked group.

“The operation [dubbed] “Indian Ocean” started late last night, we passed through many villages, we captured Golweyn district and finally we captured Bulomarer town and positioned some of our military units,” he said.

The governor says at least 11 fighters were killed and two solders were wounded during the raid. There were no initial reports of civilian casualties but witnesses say some residents fled the area.

Bulomarer is about 120 kilometers from the capital, Mogadishu.

Officials say the allied forces are heading to the strategic port town of Barawe, a stronghold for al-Shabab fighters.

In recent years, Somali and AMISOM forces have pushed al-Shabab fighters out of major cities, but the group has continued to launch attacks on the government and other targets.

The military offensive is being conducted as humanitarian organizations and aid workers warn of possible famine like one three years ago that killed more than 250,000 Somalis.

In coming days a political battle awaits Somali officials and how they approach it could determine the security and stability of the newly liberated towns.

Mohammed Yusuf contributed to this report from Nairobi.