| Xinhua | 2012-10-14 17:48:59
Somali government forces backed by African Union (AU) peacekeeping forces are spreading their control over territory run by Al-Shabaab rebels in the south of the Horn of Africa country.
The allied forces this week consolidated their control over the Wanla Weyn town, 93 km south of the Somali capital Mogadishu, as well as a former Somali air force base, 15 km away from the Wanla Wein.
The newly taken areas are strategically located along the main corridor linking Mogadishu to the southern town of Baidao, which is also under the control of AU and Somali government forces.
Wanla Weyn falls at a strategic junction linking the two Shabelle regions to Baidoa in the south and Beletweyne in the north of Somalia.
Officials say the capture of Wanla Weyn facilitates the aim of connecting Mogadishu to Baidoa.
Somali Defense Minister Hussein Arab Isse was among officials who paid a visit to the regained military base near Wanla Weyn. He said the capture of the town was a victory for Somalia and called on Al-Shabaab fighters to join the government troops.
"To Al-Shabaab fighters I call upon them to lay down their arms and join the ranks of their brothers. This is your country, these are your brothers welcome to open arms. There is no other door open for you. Somalia is sovereign nation so come and join in building the future of your country," the Somali defense chief said in the newly taken area.
AU and Somali government officials say the advance would to deny fleeing Al-Shabaab insurgents from seeking refuge and destabilizing other regions of Somalia.
The officials believe that the capture of this town denies Al- Shabaab another source of illegal income after a string of defeats and the loss of other major sources of revenue in a number of seaports along the coastal towns.
Al-Shabaab has lost a number of key towns in central and southern regions, in particular, the port city of Kismayo, the stronghold of the rebels.
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