Al-Shabaab militia recaptures S. Somalia town

MOGADISHU – Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab militia regained its control Tuesday over a southern Somali town, eyewitnesses said, hours after the withdrawal of the African peacekeeping mission from the town.

According to eyewitnesses, militants from the militant group seized Ragi Ele on Tuesday morning, after troops from the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) withdrew "suddenly" Monday night.

Government troops backed by AMISOM forces had chased off the militia from the town six months ago during a wide-scale operation.

But on Tuesday, Al-Shabaab militants seized the town with no resistance, as eyewitnesses said.

The AMISON had not provided an explanation for its unannounced withdrawal and no response was provided by the Somali government thus far on the incident.

Al-Shabaab, which seeks to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu, still controls several towns in the Central Shebelle region, amid repeated announcements by the government of a large scale military operation to hunt down the group in the south-central region.

Somalia has remained in the grip of on-again, off-again violence since the outbreak of civil war in 1991.

The country appeared to have stabilized recently with the installation of a new government and the intervention of African Union troops tasked with combatting Al-Shabaab.

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