Mogadishu: Somali forces and the African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have recaptured the southern coastal town of Barawe, residents and officials said.
The Somali government and AMISOM said the town fell after troops "rolled in without much resistance" from Al-Shabaab militants, who had controlled the city for several years, Xinhua reported.
"Units from Somali National Army and those of AMISOM with armoured vehicles took full control of the town of Barawe," state radio Mogadishu reported.
It said the joint forces set up bases in and around the coastal port town and carried out searches to strengthen security in the city.
Residents said there was no fighting as the militants fled from the town before the advancing troops entered it.
Barawe was reported to be calm and residents remained indoors shortly after the arrival of Somali government forces and AU peacekeepers.
Barawe, 220 km southwest of the country`s capital Mogadishu, is the last major coastal area under Al-Shabaab militants and served as the key revenue earner for the militants through taxation on local businesses and export of illegal charcoal.
AMISOM said retreating Al-Shabaab fighters launched an ambush on the troops, but it was "immediately neutralised" paving the way for the joint forces to seize the town.
The recapturing of Barawe is part of the major offensive dubbed "Operation Indian Ocean" which was launched in September and is aimed "to push the militants out of their bases along mainland Africa`s longest coastline".
Although the Islamist group lost key urban areas, it still controls swathes of rural lands in southern and central Somalia.