First Published: 2012-08-14

 

UN warns of 'imminent' attack on Somali Shebab bastion

 

Top UN humanitarian aid official warns of impending assault on southern Somali port of Kismayo, stronghold of Shebab insurgents.

 

Middle East Online

Long-awaited assault

NAIROBI - The United Nations warned Tuesday of an impending assault on the southern Somali port of Kismayo, the largest remaining stronghold of the country's Al-Qaeda linked Shebab insurgents.

"Fighting for control of the town appears imminent," said Mark Bowden, the top UN humanitarian aid official for the war-torn nation, noting reports of recent naval artillery bombardment as well as air strikes.

African Union troops, Ethiopian forces and various Somali militia forces have wrested a string of towns from the hardline Shebab, with the capture of Kismayo -- a crucial revenue source for the fighters -- seen as a key target.

Last week Shebab officials and residents said three civilians were killed by missile strikes on the port, reportedly by a naval barrage from an unidentified ship.

Several foreign navies operate anti-piracy patrols off the coast of the Horn of Africa nation, including European, US, Russian and Chinese forces.

Neighbouring Kenya has smaller vessels operating offshore from Kisamayo, supporting its ground troops, who invaded southern Somalia last year, before joining the nearly 17,000-strong AU force.

"I am deeply concerned by recent reports of civilian casualties in Kismayo caused by naval gunfire and airstrikes," Bowden said.

"I reiterate my call for all parties to the conflict to make every effort to minimise the impact of conflict on civilians, and to allow full humanitarian access to all people in need," Bowden added in a statement.

The reports of the long-awaited assault come as the corruption-riddled government wraps up eight years of infighting, with a UN-backed selection process for new leaders due to be completed by an August 20 deadline.

Three Ugandan army helicopters en route to Somalia to support the AU force crashed in Kenya on Sunday leaving at least two soldiers dead.

The deployment would have greatly aided forces ahead of any assault on Kismayo.

 

Turkey reinforces ground forces across border into Syria

Iraq parliament votes to impeach defense minister

Tunisia unity government to remain unchanged

Kerry announces new Yemen peace initiative

Raped teen who took own life finally gets justice in Morocco

Kerry in Saudi for talks on regional conflicts

UN Syria envoy expects 'impact' from Kerry-Lavrov meeting

Russia says will cooperate in Syria chemical attacks probe

Iraq forces take key town south of Mosul

Hamas to leave name off ballot in Palestinian elections

Iranian navy in 'unsafe' intercept of US destroyer

Three wounded in PKK attack on Turkey opposition chief's convoy

Erdogan to inaugurate Istanbul's third Bosphorus bridge

China to train Syrian troops

Turkey says 'every right' to intervene if Kurds fail to withdraw

UN rights chief urges international probe of Yemen violations

Syria rebels backed by Turkey tanks 'seize' Jarabulus

Libya's presidential council to present new cabinet

Syria regime, Kurds blast Turkish incursion

Biden: Washington told Kurds not to cross Euphrates

Israeli court shuns plea to unchain Palestinian hunger striker

Saudi police foil mosque suicide bombing

Kerry to meet Russia's Lavrov in Geneva on Friday

Kurdish forces in Syria prime target for Turkey

Drone strike kills 2 Qaeda suspects in Yemen

Iran yet to decide on OPEC limits

Iraq forces advance south of Mosul

Muslim women say swimsuit uproar is 'absurd'

Gaza animals leave 'world's worst' zoo

Hasakeh: key flashpoint for Syria regime, Kurds

Kerry heads to Saudi on Yemen peace push

British woman killed in Australian stabbing

Hajj stoning to be shortened after deadly stampede

Turkey launches operation to clear Syria border town from IS

Israel raids West Bank arms factories

Morocco posts fall in foreign tourist arrivals

Turkey cuts interest rates defying inflation jump

Syria regime, Kurds agree Hasakeh truce

Iran says it requested Russian strikes on Aleppo

Turkey shells IS positions in Syria

UN braces for massive flight from Mosul

Sudanese migrant killed in Calais clashes

Palestinian suspect in police killings beaten to death

Iraq forces launch push to retake town south of Mosul

UN aid chief warns of 'unparalleled' catastrophe in Aleppo