Somalia: Al-Shabaab abandons major stronghold of Harardhere

MOGADISHU, Somalia – Al-Qaeda-linked group Al Shabaab militants are withdrawing from Harardhere town, a major stronghold for rebels in central Somalia.

Harardhere is in a strategic position 400 km (250 miles) northeast of Somali capital Mogadishu

The group’s fighters have been using it as a base to launch attacks and it was also controlling it nearly a decade, according to Radio Risala.

Risaala aired the Al-Shabab battle-wagons loaded with their weapons had been leaving since Thursday’s morning.

The retreat by the rebels, who still control most of famine-struck southern Somalia, coincided after US military carried out successive airstrikes against Al Shabaab near Harardhere town.

There was no immediate comment from Al Shabaab over the withdrawal.

The Al Qaeda inspired group lost key towns to Somali army forces backed by African Union troops following joint military operations.

But, the group still controls large swathes of territory in rural areas in south and central Somalia.

The group, which once controlled much of Mogadishu capital in 2011, wants to overthrow the UN-backed Somali government and has imposed a strict version of Sharia in areas under its control.