Somali, AU Forces Clear Last of al-Shabab Near Afgoye

Somali and African Union forces have cleared pockets of al-Shabab resistance from Elasha Biyaha, a region west of Mogadishu and home to more than 400,000 internally displaced refugees.

Somali and AU fighters seized control Afgoye Friday, a major town in Elasha Biyaha. They have also reopened the road between Afgoye and Mogadishu. Somali officials say 20 al-Shabab militants were killed in the five day operation to take the town.

A VOA Somali service reporter says the few people who were on the streets of Afgoye Sunday appeared anxious and still and afraid to speak out in support of the Somali government. Some people told VOA that a resident celebrating the liberation of the town was killed by an unidentified gunman.

Al-Shabab took control of Afgoye three years ago as part of its efforts to topple the U.N.-backed government and turn Somalia into a staunchly conservative Islamic state.

Al-Shabab controlled most of southern and central Somalia before losing ground to AU and Somali forces over the past year and a half.

Somalia has not had a strong central government since former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre fled in 1991.