Al Shabab takes over central Somalia’s Mataban district

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Fighters of the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab took over control of the strategic central Somalia town of Mataban on Saturday after government troops vacated their bases, local media reported.

Heavily armed militants could be seen across the streets of the city, which is on a highway linking the capital Mogadishu to central and northern regions of the war-torn Horn of Africa nation.

Control of the town has changed hands multiple times over the past weeks between Al-Shabaab and government troops. Insurgents briefly captured the district last week, but have pulled out after controlling it for hours.

Analysts say militants have capitalized on recent clashes between the army and its former ally Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’ah in the nearby town of Guriel, where dozens of people were killed and tens of thousands displaced.

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