Al Shabaab took control of a populous town in central Somalia on Sunday after African Union forces left the area – the third town the Islamist insurgents have seized since Friday, militants and local officials said.
The group, which seeks to overthrow the Western-backed government and impose its strict version of Islamic law, has remained a potent threat in the Horn of Africa country after it was forced from the capital Mogadishu in 2011.
The African Union peacekeeping force, AMISOM, withdraw from Buqda on Saturday night, less than a month after taking control of the town, an economic center of the Hiran region, from al Shabaab.
“We have taken Buqda town peacefully today. The town is now under our control,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military spokesman, said.
Residents said they had been treated brutally by both sides, but some said they welcomed the return of al Shabaab.