MOGADISHU, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- Somalia National Army (SNA) backed by the African Union peacekeeping mission (AMISOM) on Saturday captured several strategic locations in Lower Shabelle region, officials said.
Deputy Governor of Lower Shabelle Region Abdifitah Haji Abdulle said forces liberated Bariri, Sabib, Anole and Marerey locations that had been vital for militant group Al-Shabaab's operations.
"Somali National Army's Commandos together with international partners captured several strategic areas including Bariri town about 60 km south of Mogadishu this morning, there was resistance from Al-Shabaab. Bariri was a stronghold of the terrorist militants," Abdulle said.
Witnesses said the militants retreated and abandoned the town. Abdulle said that the joint forces are still in an operation to pursue the militants.
"The Somali flag has been hoisted in all the areas now after the withdrawal of the terrorists, residents and others who have farms and houses can come and visit them, this is a successful operation," he said.
Independent sources said Somali Commandos (Danab) backed by U.S. forces in the region carried out the operation and there has been increased joint operations by the allied forces in many parts in southern Somalia.
Al-Shabaab militants have not comment on the latest operation in Lower Shabelle region so far.