Somali military commanders Monday celebrated the capture of the last major port held by extremist Shebab insurgents, as the government secured control of the town for the first time in over two decades.
“Al-Shebab are no longer in Barawe,” military commander Abdirisak Khalif Elmi told hundreds of residents Monday, calling on citizens to support the government.
Tanks and armored vehicles patrolled the town Monday, after the Al-Qaeda linked Shebab retreated late last week ahead of the advance.
The capture of Barawe, with troops entering Sunday but with mopping up operations continuing, removes a key source of revenue for the extremist militia.
The African Union’s AMISOM force, which draws 22,000 soldiers from six nations, said Barawe, 200 kilometres (120 miles) southwest of Mogadishu, fell without “much resistance from the terrorist group.”
“Barawe is now under the control of SNA (Somali National Army) supported by AMISOM forces — the first time in 23 years, Barawe is under Somali government control,” AMISOM said Monday.
The fall of Barawe is a major blow for the insurgents, and came just a month after the death of their leader Ahmed Abdi Godane in a US air and drone strike.
“Somalia is waking to a brighter future,” UN special representative in Somalia Nick Kay said, in a congratulatory message to government and AU forces.
While some troops conducted house-to-house searches for weapons, the main body of soldiers were setting up bases just outside the town, local governor Abdukadir Mohamed Nur said.
“Operations to ensure security are ongoing,” Nur added.
Residents reported the Indian Ocean port was quiet, beyond soldiers firing into the air in celebration.
“Tanks and other armed vehicles entered this morning and houses have been searched, they were targeting some houses where Al-Shebab commanders lived,” said Ali Nurow, a resident.