“God willing we will continue the war and we will win the battle without doubt,” said Sheik Abdiaziz Abu Musab, spokesman for the hardline Shebab, a day after AU and Somali troops entered Afgoye, a former strategic rebel base.
The bulk of Shebab fighters left ahead of an advancing column of hundreds of AU and Somali government troops, who launched a long-awaited assault on the town, which controls key roads some 30 kilometers (18 miles) northwest of the capital Mogadishu.
The loss of Afgoye is another major blow for the insurgents who have been on the backfoot for several months, although Shebab fighters said it was a tactical retreat, and boasted of having “killed many soldiers in the recent fighting.”
“The mujahedeen fighters tactically withdrew from some positions but that does not represent a defeat,” Musab added. “We have already cut their supply routes and inflicted heavy losses on the enemy.”
More than 400,000 people were living in the Afgoye region at the start of the year -- the world’s largest concentration of displaced people -- according to the United Nations.