- Somali Islamic rebels loyal to the Al-Shabaab militia have seized Baidoa late Monday after a brief clash with government militiamen, just a day after Ethiopian troops completed their withdrawal out of Somalia.
It is for the first time rebels have captured an important government town in southern Somalia since the rise of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) in 2006 which was ousted by government forces backed by Ethiopian troops.
Local witnesses said a brief gunfight forced the clan militias to flee, allowing Al-Shabaab to immediately seize control of government centers, like the parliament hall, the police station and a small airstrip in the outskirts of the town.
Al Shabaab fighters are now in control of the Jubba regions, including Kismayo, Lower Shabelle region and its vital port facilities, and now Baidoa and its environs.
Ethiopian troops withdrew from Baidoa on Sunday, ending a two-year intervention in Somalia that has sparked an Islamist-led rebellion.
Ethiopia began its withdrawal early January when truckloads of their soldiers began to pull out of Mogadishu, after announcing that the mission had failed to achieve its stated purpose of curbing Islamist insurgents.
However, the withdrawal of Ethiopia's estimated 3,000-strong force has sparked security concerns for the war torn country.
Analysts fear that the power vacuum could lead to more fighting while others say it will provide the nation of nine million people an opportunity for peace and usher in a new era for the country.
At least 16,000 civilians have been killed in the fighting, and a million more have been forced from their homes. Somalia has not had an effective national government since 1991, since when various militias have been battling for control.
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