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Al-Shabaab insurgents vacated Afmadow town, the second strategic town of Lower Jubba region, and then Somali government forces, Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF), and Ras Kamboni, a pro-government militia, took over the town on Thursday, say government officials.
“Government forces backed by KDF and Ras Kamboni fighters peacefully confiscated Afmadow,” said Ahmed Mohamed, a Ras Kamboni official in Afmadow. "There were no casualties. Al-Shabaab fled and no fighting took place. We are going to consolidate security for now. Residents welcomed us."
“Al-Shabaab vacated the town before the allied forces entered the town which has strategic importance,” Bashir Madow, a resident in Afmadow told Somalia Report.
Allied forces launched an attack on al-Shabaab bases in Hayo, 24km from Afmadow, on Thursday morning before their assault in Afmadow.
“Our forces are inside Afmadow and insurgents fled from the town before our arrival,” said Abdinasir Serar, an official from Ras Kamboni fighters.
The al-Shabaab militant group in Somalia said on Thursday it had left its stronghold of Afmadow and the strategic town is now in the hands of Somali and Kenyan solders.
Kenyan and Somali forces advanced a day earlier to the edge of Afmadow, a town that was seen as an obstacle to a concerted advance on al-Shabaab's main bastion, the southern port city of Kismayo
"The Kenyan and Somali troops have now entered Afmadow. No fighting took place inside the town," Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, spokesman for al-Shabaab's military operations, told reporters. "First we fought fiercely outside the town and then our fighters left the town as part of our tactics. However, we shall not stop fighting."
The Kenyan incursion is part of a three-pronged offensive against al-Shabaab, an Islamist group that is also battling Ethiopian troops in central Somalia and an African Union force near the capital, Mogadishu.
Seizing Afmadow is a crucial step in the Kenyan drive towards the southern port city of Kismayo, the hub of al-Shabaab operations, about 120 km (75 miles) southeast.
Afmadow is the second important town seized from al-Shabaab within two weeks after Afgoye town, 30km from Mogadishu, where government and African Union forces captured last week.