The Somali army has declared Mogadishu a "free territory" after fighters from the radical al-Shabaab Islamist group fled the capital.
Deputy army commander Gen Abdikarim Yusuf Aden confirmed the fundamentalist group's dramatic pull-out Sunday morning, adding that it had been as a result of military pressure from government forces and its allies, including AU peacekeepers.
"I embrace with happiness the setback that overwhelmed al-Shabaab," he said. "I can now declare Mogadishu a free territory."
Gen Aden said al-Shabaab fighters had probably realised the odds were against them in the face of a planned major offensive, informing their withdrawal from their key positions in the capital.
Most of the retreating al-Shabaab combatants headed towards Lower Shabelle and Middle Shabelle regions, respectively south and north of Mogadishu, in what they claimed was a "change in tactic".
"They must have received confidential information to convince them to vacate the capital," said Gen Aden while speaking to the media at Mogadishu Stadium, al-Shabaab's main base in the Somali capital.
On Saturday, Somali prime minister Prof Abdiweli Mohamed Ali labelled the leaders of al-Shabaab as fugitives and said security forces were on their trail.
"We are going to pursue them until their last fighter is put out of action," said Gen Aden.
And in a related development, the transitional government's National Security Agency (NSA) has ordered al-Shabaab fighters hiding in the capital to surrender by August 7.
NSA director Ahmed Moalim Fiqi told the press that the intelligence agency was aware of rebels holed up in Mogadishu and ordered them to give themselves up to security forces.
"If they present themselves, we will recognise them as citizens with rights to go through corrective means. Should they remain in hiding, we will treat them as enemy to be dealt with an iron fist," said Mr Fiqi, a former Somali ambassador to Khartoum.