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.

 

28 killed in IS attack on Huthi rebel leaders in Sanaa

Islamic State 'caliphate' enters second year with more bloodshed

Turkey holds top security meet

Tunisia to arm tourist police after Sousse attack

Qatar concedes 'much more needs to be done' on labour law

Britons death toll in Tunisia attack to soar to 'around 30'

US official says method found for access to suspect Iran sites

Israel to Syria rebels: 'Don't mess with the Druze'

Egypt state prosecutor dead after Cairo bomb attack

Iranians anxious as talks stumble

'Unprecedented situation' for Sudan's journalists

Egypt's state prosecutor injured in bomb attack

UAE woman sentenced to death for killing US teacher

Israel escorts flotilla defying Gaza blockade

Repatriation of two Tunisians once held by CIA

Key confidante of Syria president dies of illness

Libya rival factions sit at same table for first time

Students may have left Sudan for ‘Islamic State’

Tense nuclear talks set to go beyond deadline as differences remain

Kuwait names Saudi man as suicide bomber in mosque attack

Armed police swarm streets of Tunisia beach resorts

Turkey wants more walls on border with Syria

Tunisia unites in pain and shock as hope slips away

Abadi: ‘Unauthorised’ withdrawal of Iraq forces led to loss of Ramadi

Negotiators ‘need to work really hard’ as nuclear talks begin

Iraq arrests Saddam-era official following arduous operation

Syria Kurds take full control of Kobane after killing spree by jihadists

Kuwait tightens security after mosque attack

Thousands of scared tourists scramble to leave Tunisia

Qatar’s Advisory Council rejects labour reform

Tunisia seaside massacre deals heavy blow to tourism

Kuwait to hold mass funeral for IS attack victims

37 dead in Tunisia beach attack

Essebsi: Tunisia cannot respond alone to jihadist threat

Israel urges French Jews to flee after factory attack

Saudi pursuing own nuclear projects to counter Iran

Islamic State claim Shiite mosque bombing in Kuwait

Somali Shebab overrun African Union base

Vatican under fire from Israel

Palestinians submit Israeli war crimes files to ICC

Islamic State massacre civilians in Syria’s Kobane

One decapitated, several injured in France terrorist attack

Egypt, US to hold 'strategic dialogue' in July amid warming ties

Libya rivals return to Morocco for new peace talks

Eritrean asylum seekers protest in Israel