Al-Shabaab militants appeared to be abandoning a strategic post in Afgoye, Somalia, with government and African Union troops in the area, residents said.
Tanks approached the town, near Mogadishu, but analysts said troops were hesitant to move in, fearing an al-Shabaab trap, the BBC reported Friday.
Witnesses said Afgoye's administrative buildings were looted following the departure of militants.
Afgoye has been a convenient base for al-Shabaab's attacks on Mogadishu, observers said.
The main road between Mogadishu and Afgoye is lined with up to 400,000 refugees living in makeshift camps, the BBC said.
Refugees along the corridor have fled in recent days to escape the fighting, the Shabelle Media Network reported.
Somalia has been without an effective government since 1991.