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.

 

Libya jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia announces dissolution

Images emerge of Manchester bomber as runners defy threat

Iran leader launches fierce attack on ‘milking cow’ Saudis

Jordan gearing up for another Ramadan with refugees

Syria girls escape war with Snow White

Egypt’s left-wing parties start searching for Sisi competitor

US urged to keep track of its Iraq arms supply

Qatar risks US sanctions over support for Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood

US-Turkish relations go from bad to worse

Egypt hits jihadists as IS claims deadly attack on Christians

Britain arrests two more in Manchester attack probe

Turkey charges opposition newspaper staff

Death toll in Tripoli clashes reaches 52

Hundreds of migrants rescued in major operation off Libya

Palestinians end mass hunger strike in Israel jails

Egypt Christians bury victims with tears, anger

Ramadan in Libya: little cash, much violence

UN braces for up to 200,000 Iraqis to flee Mosul

Iraq forces launch broad attack on IS holdouts in Mosul

Civilians flee IS-held Syria cities after deadly strikes

At least 28 dead in Tripoli clashes

UN says nations bombing IS must protect civilians

26 killed in attack on Egypt Christians

Turkey identifies 'intelligence weaknesses' before coup attempt

Tunisia opens trial over 2015 beach massacre

Syria army takes control of key road

US-led strikes kill 35 civilians in east Syria

Probe finds over 100 Mosul civilians killed in US air strike

Palestinian president says US should mediate hunger strike

Libya says working closely with Britain over concert attack

EU leaders, Erdogan meet in bid to ease tensions

Myanmar to deport Turkish family wanted for alleged coup links

Iran says it has built third underground missile factory

Trump gets rough ride in EU, NATO meeting

Saudi minister confident on oil output deal

Egyptians brace for austere Ramadan

Qatari FM says country victim of smear campaign, particularly in US

Britain probes jihadist network amid row with US intelligence

Egypt blocks several media websites including Jazeera

IS suicide bomber kills five in Somalia

Israel uneasy over 'crazy' regional arms race

Algeria president replaces Prime Minister

16 civilians dead in coalition strikes near Raqa

4 arrested in Tunisia anti-corruption drive

German MPs call off Turkey visit as tensions fester