Updated at: 12/09/2012 7:36 AM
(AP) MOGADISHU, Somalia - African Union and Somali troops have taken a rebel stronghold north of the Somali capital, another setback for the al-Shabab extremists who once controlled Mogadishu.
Witnesses in Jowhar, 90 kilometers (60 miles) north of Mogadishu, said Sunday that troops encircled the town before engaging in a brief battle with militants. The fighting forced dozens of families to flee. Mahad Ali, a resident, said the rebels left the town around midday Sunday.
An al-Shabab member who uses Twitter confirmed the transfer of power. The posting said Jowhar had been transformed from a "peaceful city" governed by Shariah law into a battle zone.
African Union and Somali troops forced al-Shabab out of the capital Mogadishu in August 2011. The troops have since taken over many more towns, decreasing al-Shabab’s area of control.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)