The Al Qaeda-affiliated Somalia-based Al Shabaab militants have wrested full control of a key town located in the country’s southern Middle Shabelle region last night, residents said.

The residents who spoke to Radio Shabelle on condition of anonymity said armed fighters in pickups mounted in machine guns took over Basra near Bal’ad without a battle.

The fall of Basra following the withdrawal of Somali National Army (SNA) forces and the African Union troops who had been in control of the area since last week.

The AU and SNA military commanders in the region did not comment on the sudden retreat of the allied troops, however, the move comes ahead of a major offensive against Al Shabab.