Defense Minister Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur told VOA Somali that government forces and local fighters seized Harardhere and Galcad without a fight after the militants fled.
“Today, it’s is big day for the Somali people, it’s a victory for the Somalis,” Nur said.
He said Harardhere is largely empty, and accused al-Shabab of “displacing” the civilians from the town before government troops arrived. Business places are closed down, he said.
He said the government will work on returning the residents to the town.
The capture of Galcad, 375km north of Mogadishu, and Harardhere signifies that government forces and local fighters are now moving deeper into Galmudug State following military operations in the neighboring Hirshabelle State.
Meanwhile, an explosion from a suicide car bomb targeted a building housing a security officer in Halgan village, Hiran region on Monday. a police official told VOA Somali.
Colonel Hassan Kaafi Mohamed Ibrahim, a deputy police commander in Hiran region confirmed that the explosion killed Jamal Ahmed Jama, a captain with the local security forces.
The al-Shabab militant group claimed responsibility for the suicide car bombing in Halgan, 260km north of Mogadishu.
The group claimed carrying out a “planned operation” targeting local forces known as Ma’awisley who are supporting Somali government military in the ongoing military operations in the central regions.
In a statement, the militant group also claimed inflicting “heavy losses” on the local forces because of the suicide bombing.
Al-Shabab was behind three explosions in Hiran region’s Bulobarde and Jalalaqsi towns on Saturday, killing 13 people and wounding over 50 other people, according to local officials.
Despite apparent retaliatory al-Shabab attacks, the Somali government and local forces continued pushing into the territories previously controlled by the militant group.
The government has reported killing hundreds of militants and seizing dozens of localities since the military operations were launched in August.
The government has also reported shutting down hundreds of bank and mobile money accounts allegedly linked with al-Shabab in an effort to curtail the group’s revenue generation activities.
This report was prepared by VOA's Harun Maruf, Hussein Hassan Dhaqane