MOGADISHU, Somalia, Aug. 6 (UPI) -- Al-Shabaab's withdrawal from Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, represents a change in strategy, Shabaab spokesman Ali Mohamoud Rage said.
The militant Islamist group with ties to al-Qaida withdrew its fighters from Mogadishu Saturday, but that doesn't mean it will end its rule in other parts of Somalia, The New York Times reported.
"The mujahedin [holy warriors] have completely vacated Mogadishu for tactical purposes," Rage said, adding al-Shabaab would change its "fighting strategy into hit and run attacks, where the mujahedin will attack on the spot wherever government and African Union forces are based. We will be back soon."
Residents poured into the streets of Mogadishu as truckloads of heavily armed Shabaab fighters left the city under cover of darkness. The organization has controlled parts of the city for years, but it has suffered losses to key players in recent months, the report said.
Witnesses said al-Shabaab troops were heading south of Mogadishu toward Merka, Brava and other towns under their control in southern Somalia. Residents wasted no time celebrating, immediately pouring into the streets of Mogadishu to jeer the vacating al-Shabaab troops.
The Times said Mogadishu is under government control for the first time in years.