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Somali Troops Recapture Village from al-Shabab

FILE - Somali soldiers patrol at the front gate of the presidential palace following a suicide bomb attack in Mogadishu, Jan. 29, 2013.

Somali government troops recaptured Goofgaduud in southern Somalia after al-Shabab militants briefly took control of the village Sunday, officials and witnesses said.

“The militants attacked a government military base. The troops made a strategic retreat and counter attacked the militants. Now, Somali government forces have retaken the full control of the village,” said regional deputy police chief, Mohamed Isaq Ara’as.

He said four government soldiers and eight militants were killed during the fighting and 10 other combatants were injured.

Goofgaduud lies about 250 kilometers northwest of Mogadishu, the capital, in an area where the militants and government soldiers fought several times in the past.

“Both sides battled into the streets of the village. Some houses were burnt. The militants briefly took the control. They remained here for six hours and then fled as Ethiopian troops backing Somali soldier advanced to the town,” one of few residents in the village told a VOA reporter in the region over the phone.

A statement aired by Radio Andalus, al-Shabab's mouthpiece in Somalia, said the militant group had captured the village in a heavy fighting, kiiling seven government soldiers.

There is no independent confirmation on both sides’ claims as their casualty figures often differ.

Meanwhile, people in the rural areas, towns and villages still under the full control of the militants report the visible mobilization of fighters preparing to recover ground in southern Somalia, after the recent retreat of Ethiopian troops from the region.

The Ethiopian government announced on Wednesday that its troops fighting the al-Qaida-linked terror group in Somalia were retreating for strategic and logistical reasons.

Al-Shabab has taken control of four major towns and several villages vacated by the Ethiopians.

Somali military officials said government troops and African Union troops would fill the security vacuum, but civilians in these areas reported being affected by al-Shabab’s presence.