African Forces Seize Islamist Rebel Stronghold in South Somalia

African Union forces pushed Islamist militant group al-Shabaab from its stronghold in an agricultural heartland of southwestern Somalia after clashes that killed 15 people, according to residents of the region.

The militants fled from the town of Bardhere as Kenyan troops advanced, Mohamed Sadiq said by phone on Wednesday. Earlier, the troops seized Juungal village, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) outside Bardhere, after clashes that killed an estimated 15 people, most of whom are suspected militants, he said. Somali army Colonel Abdullahi Osman Isaaq confirmed a battle occurred in Juungal in the offensive to capture Bardhere.

“The troops are currently digging trenches in entry and exit points of the town” and taking charge of government buildings and the police headquarters, said Sadiq.

African Union troops are cooperating with Somali forces in trying to eradicate al-Shabaab, which has been waging an insurgency in Somalia since 2007 to impose Shariah, or Islamic law. In the past several years, the military coalition has regained control of large parts of territory from the group, though militants still carry out regular gun and grenade attacks.

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