Somalia's national army said Tuesday it recaptured the small but strategic town of Booco in the country's central Hiran region from al-Shabab militants. The military said local militia backed them up in this latest offensive against the Islamist militants, who state TV said have controlled the town for 13 years. Somalia National Television (SNTV) reported that Army Chief Brigadier General Odawa Yusuf visited the Hiran region village of Yasoman on Tuesday, where troops also drove out militants with local support. Hiran Governor Hiran Ali Jeyte Osman spoke to VOA by phone. He said Booco was an al-Shabab stronghold that was used as the region's base for their so-called shadow court and to extort money from locals. Osman said in the last two days the army took over the villages of Garisiyani, Booco and Nur-Fanah, as well as many other locations. He said he wants to tell the Somali people that the al-Shabab fighters were cowards who can't compete with the army. The offensive came just a day after Somalia's government said the military forced al-Shabab out of 30 villages in clashes this month that killed more than 200 militants. Somalia's Defense Minister Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur praised local militias who backed the military in the fights against al-Shabab. Somalia's Information Ministry in a statement Monday night acknowledged the army had received air support from the U.S. during the offensives in Hiran. Somalia has been workimg to defeat the al-Shabab terrorist group for 15 years. Last month, the group attacked an international hotel in the capital, Mogadishu, killing 20 people and wounding more than 100. Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud responded to the deadly siege by announcing a "total war" against the militants.