MOGADISHU, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) -- Somali government forces backed by African Union peacekeeping troops on Thursday captured the central Somalia town of Mahadeey from the control of the radical Islamist Al Shabaab, officials and residents said.
An early morning offensive by the Somali National Army supported by AU peacekeepers from African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forced the Islamist fighters controlling the town to withdraw without a fight, residents in Mahadeey told Xinhua.
There were no reports of casualties in the battle for control of the town, which has been few of urban centers in central Somalia still under control of Al Shabaab fighters.
Speaker of the Somali parliament Mohamed Osman Jawari, who is currently the acting President of the country with absence of the country's head of state on a foreign trip, congratulated the national army and AMISOM peacekeepers for victory in the offensive.
"I specifically congratulate the units that undertook this operation to liberate the town from the Al-Qaeda affiliates of Al Shabaab particular the high level tactic used to execute the operation without harm to the civilian populations," Jawari said.
Mahadeey is a small agricultural town in Middle Shabelle province and is 30 km north of Mogadishu, the Somali capital.
This is the first major territorial gains by the Somali government against extremist rebels in several months following a hiatus of military operations after Somali forces and AMISOM troops ousted Al Shabaab from key urban areas in south and central Somalia.
Government officials said the offensive to retake Mahadeey is "the beginning of the completion of a mobbing out operation of Al Shabaab and Al-Qaeda in order to restore security in the country."
Al Shabaab has largely been pushed out of most of southern and central Somalia but the fighters of the group still hold on to rural areas outside key major towns and cities in the south- central part of Somalia.
Militants vowed to carry out guerrilla attacks against the Somali government and AU peacekeepers as well as targets of Somalia's international partners in the country.
Al Shabaab militants have launched suicide and car bomb attacks in Mogadishu, killing mainly civilians.