MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — A spokesman for African Union forces in Somalia says they have seized the port city of Merca from rebels linked to al-Qaida.

Mission spokesman Col. Ali Aden said on Monday that Merca, a coastal town south of the capital that is noted for fishing, was a key stronghold for al-Shabab militants, who have been gradually losing territory since they were pushed out of the capital, Mogadishu, in August 2011.

Aden said Merca was taken on Monday morning after "some fighting." He did not say how many were killed or wounded.

Somalia is in political transition after the mandate of a U.N.-backed caretaker government expired on Aug. 20. The Horn of Africa country is trying to select a new parliament and a president. Somalia has lacked a stable government since 1991.