First Published: 2012-09-18

 

AU-Somali forces press advance on Kismayo

 

Thousands of Somalis flee Kismayo as 17,000-strong AU force, Somali troops advance towards Islamist bastion.

 

Middle East Online

NAIROBI - Forces battling Somalia's Islamist fighters pressed their advance on the key insurgent bastion of Kismayo, officials said Tuesday, as thousands of civilians fled the expected upcoming assault.

Kenyan troops with the 17,000-strong African Union force, fighting alongside Somali militia forces opposed to the Al-Qaeda linked Shebab, have moved some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the southern Somali port city.

"The Shebab are in their last throes," said Kenyan army spokesman Cyrus Oguna, adding that Kenyan frontline troops were now holding the village of Jan Abdala, northwest of Kismayo.

Kenya's navy are also patrolling offshore from the town -- with a population of up to 193,000 people, according to the United Nations -- and have fired on the port in recent weeks.

"The assault on Kismayo will comprise of ground, air and naval forces," Oguna added. "We do not have a specific date for marching on Kismayo, but it will be soon."

Shebab fighters had also stopped broadcasts on their Radio Andalus, Oguna added, although the extremist group had dismissed reports their gunmen were fleeing ahead of the advance.

"The pressure they are facing is so immense that they have been forced to dismantle their main mouthpiece Radio Andalus," he said.

But the Shebab are putting up stiff resistance to the troops, Oguna added, slowing progress as the soldiers check for hidden improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

"The Shebab are doing everything in their power to delay the progress of our forces including lining the roads with IEDs and snipers," he said. "But we can handle whatever they throw at us."

Witnesses in Kismayo reported the sound of artillery fire outside the town on Monday, but Shebab commander Sheikh Abdallah Mohamed said his forces had pushed back Somali and Kenyan troops.

UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, warned Tuesday that "more and more people are fleeing their homes in Kismayo". Over 4,400 people have left since the beginning of September, it said, with the "numbers expected to rise fast".

Oguna said the AU force had asked civilians to leave areas before they pushed forward.

"We have asked civilians -- not only in Kismayo but in other areas we were marching through -- to leave for their own protection," Oguna added.

"We want to limit collateral damage since the Shebab are known to use civilians as human shields."

Kismayo has been a long-term goal of Kenyan forces ever since they invaded last October, but reaching it has taken longer than initially estimated.

 

Erdogan asks Americans: Who’s your partner, Turkey or Kurds?

Algeria parliament adopts Bouteflika’s constitutional reforms

Turkey vows to let in Syria refugees 'if necessary'

UAE ready to send ground troops to Syria

Iran carmaker reveals 427 million euros in Peugeot perks

Hamas armed branch executes one of its own members

Syria army advances towards rebel town of Tal Rifaat

Netherlands probes civilian casualties in Iraq air strikes

Tunisia completes construction of Libya border fence

Algeria parliament to vote on constitutional reforms

Egypt returns body of Italian student Giulio Regeni

Iran reverses mass ban on candidates for parliamentary polls

Thousands of Syria refugees brave bad weather at border with Turkey

New photos reveal serious abuse of Iraq prisoners in US facilities

EU reminds Turkey: Keep your border open to Syria refugees

Somalia recaptures key port of Merka from Shebab

Iran warns Saudi Arabia over possible ground action in Syria

Palestinian journalist to keep up hunger strike

Iraq’s Sistani to end weekly political sermons

Shebab fighters recapture key port in Somalia

Syria regime forces close in on Daraa

Israeli leaders slam Arab MPs, refuse to return Palestinian corpses

IS jihadists rise in Libya, drop in Iraq and Syria

World powers pledge $10 billion to help war-hit Syrians

Morocco king inaugurates first solar power plant

Saudi ready to send ground troops to Syria

Israel charges cop for exposing woman's ID

Russia accuses Turkey of preparing to invade Syria

Syria talks were an inevitable failure

Saudi says Iranian pilgrims still welcome

Italy demands truth from Egypt over slain student

Fear stalks Libya's Sirte

US adds $890 million to Syria humanitarian aid effort

Tunisia lifts nationwide curfew

Two Israelis jailed for burning Palestinian teen alive

Sweden expects 100,000 asylum seekers in 2016

Turkey refuses access to Russian flight as Aleppo bombardment continues

40,000 Syrians flee Assad regime's Aleppo offensive

US implicitly blames Russia for collapse of Syria peace talks

Rome summons Egypt’s ambassador over student’s death

Israeli forces lock down West Bank town

Two Algerians 'linked to IS' arrested in Germany

Assad regime accused of undermining Syria peace talks

Top Qaeda chief killed in Yemen drone attack

EU agrees on details of Turkey refugee deal as Italy drops objections