, MOGADISHU, Aug 17 – Somali pro-government militia on Monday recaptured the southwestern town of Bulohawo, on the border with Kenya, from the Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab group, fighters and residents said.
Residents said local militia groups and fighters linked to the Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa moderate religious group launched an assault on key positions held by the Shebab and quickly gained the upper hand.
"Our forces have taken control of Bulohawo following short clashes with the extremist rebels who had been controlling the town over the past few months," said Abdi Bare Abdi, a spokesman for the pro-government militants, said.
Bulohawo sits right across the border from the Kenyan town of Mandera and had been under the control of the Shebab, like much of southern Somalia.
The hardline group, which on May 7 launched a massive operation to topple the government in Mogadishu, has recently suffered military setbacks at the hands of Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa in central regions, further north.
Residents of Bulohawo confirmed that the local militiamen had reclaimed control of the town but were not immmediately able to say whether the brief bout of fighting had caused any casualties.
"We heard the gunfire early this morning on the outskirts of the town and minutes later, heavily-armed militants supporting the Somali government entered the town," local resident Abdullahi Hirsi told AFP by phone.
"The Shebab militants deserted the town after the brief exchange of fire," Ali Abdi Mohamed, another Bulohawo resident, said.
Three foreign aid workers from the Action Contre la Faim (ACF) organisation were snatched by Shebab-linked militants last month in Mandera.