The Somali National Army and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces seized the al-Shabaab-held town of Buurhakaba on Wednesday (February 27th), AFP reported.
Soldiers backed by tanks stormed the town from three directions, but the extremist group had already fled before the assault, said Somalia's deputy army commander Major General Abdikarim Yusuf Dhegobadan.
"Our forces took control of Buurhakaba without a fight, and we are clearing any bombs that might have been planted," Dhegobadan said.
The capture of Buurhakaba marks a key stage in efforts to open up the main road from Mogadishu to Baidoa, a major town wrested from al-Shabaab by Somali and Ethiopian troops in February 2012.
Buurhakaba lies about 160 kilometres northwest of Mogadishu, leaving some 60 kilometres until AMISOM troops can reach Baidoa by road. Allied forces had previously attempted to take Buurhakaba in November.
"The situation is calm and the government and AU troops are now patrolling in the streets," Buurhakaba resident Mohamed Nurow said.
Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia Mahamat Saleh Annadif said the capture of the town marked the "determination" of the 17,000-strong AMISOM force "to support the people of Somalia".