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.

 

Brexit vote lays bare depth of division across Britain

US-backed Syria fighters edge further into ISIS border hub

Tunisia flaunts seaside security to bring back tourists

Car bomb kills four civilians in Libya's Benghazi

Iran cracks down on ‘Western culture’ of canine ownership

Young Britons vent anger at grey Brexit vote

Russia planes pound Aleppo as Syria regime forces closes in

Britain and EU: A fraught divorce

Libya govt. forces repel ISIS counterattack in Sirte

Oil slides on British referendum result

Crashed EgyptAir black boxes to go to France for repairs

5,000 migrants rescued from rubber dinghies in Mediterranean

Britain votes to break away from EU, PM resigns

Turkey acquits British academic over 'terror propaganda' charges

24 jailed in Bahrain for forming IS cell

Iraq commander says forces control over 80% of Fallujah

Israel sentences 4 Palestinians to life

Turkey in new quest to patch up with regional foes

Defiant Bahrain moves to dissolve opposition bloc

Kurdish-Arab forces push into IS Syria bastion of Manbij

Yemen govt says rebels must withdraw before any transition

Turkey confirms new accession talks with EU

Saudi suspect found dead after gunfight in Shiite town

Suspended Kuwait sues IOC for damages

Erdogan lashes out at EU treatment of Turkey

UN Chief, Saudi prince discuss situation in Yemen

Turkey blocks visit of German delegation to Incirlik air base

Trump goes on blistering offensive against Clinton

EU negotiators endorse new border force proposal

Head of EU parliament hopes to arrange meeting of Israeli, Palestinian leaders

Turkish prosecutors demand 14 years for activists

Final push for votes as EU leaders warn over Brexit

Egypt government appeals court block on islands’ transfer to Saudis

Heat, long fasting days take their toll on Cairo residents

Assad names Imad Khamis as new Prime Minister

Turkey wants Britain to stay in EU 'under any circumstances'

EU to open new membership talks with Turkey

Turkey arrests 3 IS suspects over 'LGBT rally plot'

Yemen rebels say consensus president crucial for peace deal

Fallujah 'almost cleared' of ISIS jihadists

Dawn prayers stoke fears for Turkey's Hagia Sophia

Turkish FM says normalisation deal depends on Israel

25 civilians killed in air raids on Syria’s Raqa

UN urges international community to aid civilians who fled Fallujah

UN envoy proposes roadmap for Yemen peace