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.

 

Qatar-Turkey relations continue to build upon strong alliance

Turkey, Syria Kurds reach agreement to stop fighting

UN aid going to Assad-linked companies

Italy rescues some 6,500 migrants off Libya

Rising water pollution puts millions of lives at risk

Sweden jails Syrian refugee for setting fire to hostel

Turkey arrests editor from top daily in post-coup crackdown

Qaeda-linked group claims deadly ambush in Western Tunisia

France criticizes Turkey’s intervention in Syria

Turkey risks getting bogged down in Syria's war

Shabaab suicide car bomb targets Somalia hotel

US drone strike kills Qaeda suspect in Yemen

Libya says last chemical weapons stocks shipped out

World Vision calls for transparent trial in 'Hamas aid' case

Iran to cover infertility treatments

Top UN official calls for response to South Sudan refugee crisis

Obama to meet Erdogan on Syria over weekend

Libyan forces corner IS fighters in last Sirte holdouts

Tunisia's new unity government takes office

3 Saudi children killed in Yemen cross-border shelling

18 killed in suicide attack in Iraq oasis town

60 killed in suicide bomb attack on Yemen army camp

Turkey's bombings kill civilians in northern Syria

Iran arrests 'nuclear spy'

Egypt frees renowned rights lawyer, Malek Adly

In Saudi city of Najran, Huthis commit war crimes with indiscriminate rockets

Libya forces launch ‘final battle for Sirte’

Dozens killed as Turkey ramps up unprecedented offensive in Syria

Iraq officially asks Saudi Arabia to change ambassador

Yemen government cautiously welcomes US peace plan

Yemen shelling kills three-year-old boy in Saudi border region

Turkey sends more tanks into Syria to bolster military offensive

Turkey arrests former top diplomats over failed coup

Tunisia swears in new premier after approval from parliament

Israeli troops shoot dead Palestinian in occupied West Bank

11 Turkish police officers killed in Cizre bomb attack claimed by PKK

French court suspends burkini ban

Tears as evacuation starts in Syria's Daraya

Turkey PM denies Syria operation singling out Kurds

Kerry, Lavrov meet for talks on Syria

Tunisia parliament to vote on cabinet proposal

Kuwait arrests govt employee promoting IS online

Turkey shells Kurdish fighters in Syria after warning

Oil prices fall on Saudi doubt on output cut

Jeddah meeting bears no fruit on Yemen conflict