Al-Shabab fighters took control of a sizeable town in Middle Shabelle region on Friday after African Union forces left the area, residents say.
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 even after being forced out of the capital Mogadishu in 2011.
The African Union peacekeeping force, AMISOM, left Buqda on Thursday night with unmentioned reason.
“Al-Shababe fighters have taken Fiidow town peacefully today. The town is now under their control,” said a resident who declined his name in fear of Al-Shabab..
Residents said they had been treated brutally by both sides, but some said they welcomed the return of al Shabaab.
“The problem is that the government cannot keep control of the town and it does not want Al-Shabaab to rule it,” said local elder. “Government troops rape, rob and kill us. Al-Shabaab also punishes anyone who sells items to the government.
The al Qaeda-affiliated group regularly attacks the AU-led peacekeeping force and Somali authorities.
The group has posted on its website page a footage of the attack of AMISOM base in Janale, about 90 km (55 miles) south of Mogadishu where it allegedly killed at least 50 Ugandan soldiers.
Janaale attack comes roughly a year after its leader Ahmed Abdi Godane was killed in a U.S. air strike.