Kenya hits al-Shabab stronghold in Somalia
KENYA’S military says it has captured the key Somali southern port city of Kismayo from the Islamist militant group al-Shabab during an overnight attack involving a beach landing.
It is the last remaining port city held by the al-Qaeda-linked insurgents in Somalia.
Spokesmen for the Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) said on Friday most of the town was under the control of Kenyan forces, while fighting was still taking place in some outlying areas.
“KDF troops have taken control of Kismayu. Residents are advised to avoid areas where KDF and Somalia National Army troops are to avoid collateral damage,” the army said on Twitter.
But residents in Kismayo contacted by The Associated Press said that Kenyan troops had taken control of the port but not the whole city.
Mohamed Haji said that helicopters were attacking the town and that al-Shabab fighters were moving towards the front line. Residents said al-Shabab’s radio station was still on the air.
African Union troops, backing government forces, have been advancing towards Kismayo from the north, while Kenyan troops moved in from the southwest. A military spokesman said the Kenyan navy was involved in the effort to take the city.
Kenyan forces began their assault on the city situated some 500 kilometres south of the capital Mogadishu on Thursday, following airstrikes on al-Shabab weapons stores in the preceding days.
Al-Shabab was ousted from Mogadishu last year, but has still been carrying out suicide bombings in the city.
Analysts say the loss of the economic and administrative hub of Kismayo will be a blow to al-Shabab, which has been fighting the Somali government for years.
The group has also been losing ground in southern and central Somalia in the face of coordinated attacks by a coalition of Ethiopian, Kenyan and AU troops, backing Somali forces and pro-government militia.
This month, the parliament for the first time in decades elected a president on Somali soil, as part of a UN-backed transition towards a more stable government in a country that has been enmeshed in a civil war since the 1991 downfall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.AFP