Somalia’s army and African Union troops have been deployed in the strategic port of Barawe after retaking it from Islamist rebels at the weekend.
Barawe is the last major stronghold held by al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militants. As a centre for charcoal exports the militants used its revenues to fund activities and was able to import weapons .
An official from the African Union force AMISOM said they had delayed entering the town in case of booby traps.
Abdikadir Mohamed Sidi who is the Governor of Lower Shabelle region explained the significance of the military operation:
“Barawe had become a human slaughterhouse, and it was a centre for al-Qaida and foreign fighters who came from Asia and other African countries. Therefore we are congratulating AMISOM. We have been reborn today.”
The town lies 220 kilometres southwest of the capital Mogadishu. Somalian forces lost control of the place in the early 1990s. Its loss is the latest blow to al-Shabab which has seen its territory shrink rapidly since 2011.
One month ago US airstrikes are said to have killed the militants’ leader Ahmed Abdi Godane. Last year Godane publically claimed al-Shabab had been responsible for the deadly attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in which 67 people were killed.