UPDATE: Somali and AU troops retake key port from Shabaab, a day after insurgents occupied it

The loss of the Somali port of Merka to Shabaab insurgents would have been one of the biggest setbacks for the African Union force

SOMALI government troops and African Union peacekeepers on Saturday recaptured the key port of Merka from al-Shabaab insurgents, just one day after the Islamists swept into the city, the army and witnesses said.

“The Somali forces and AMISOM peacekeepers secured control of Merka again and now the situation has returned to normal,” a Somali military official, Abdirisak Mohamed, told AFP by telephone from Mogadishu.  “There was brief exchange of gunfire, but the (Shabaab) militants have fled.”

Al-Shabaab insurgents retook their former stronghold on Friday, after African Union troops pulled out of the port they had held for three-and-a-half years, the governor said.

“The AU troops pulled out of the town and Shabaab militants entered—and have secured control without fighting,” Ibrahim Adam, governor of the Lower Shabelle region told reporters.

The loss would have been one of the biggest setbacks for the AU force in its nearly decade-long battle against the Shabaab.

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