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.


Corbyn criticised over Syria air strike rejection

Turkey protests against journalist arrests

Turkey seeks to ease tensions with Moscow

Tunisia to rethink anti-IS strategy

Saudi women begin first-ever election campaign

Russia prepares retaliation against Turkey

Cameron pushes for Britain to join Syria air strikes

Erdogan denies buying oil from IS

Lavrov says no war with Turkey after 'planned provocation'

Tunisia under state of emergency

Missing Iranian diplomat found dead in Saudi

Heavy Russia raids at site of Syria plane crash

Tunisia declares state of emergency after terrorist attack in heart of capital

Bahrain calls HRW torture report 'misleading'

Syria, Russia foreign ministers set Moscow talks

Rival Libya tribes sign peace deal to end months of fighting

Turkey reveals new cabinet of Erdogan allies

Turkey downs Russia Su-24 fighter jet on Syria border

Hopes fade away as Sudan peace talks break without deal

At least 6 dead in Libya bomb attack

Somali pirates seize Iran fishing boat with 15 crew

ISIS suicide bombers kill four in assault on Sinai hotel

Kerry visits Israel with scant hopes for major breakthrough

Hollande heads to Washington to seek support for war on ISIS

Brussels extends terror alert as US issues worldwide travel warning

UAE blames Islamists for delay in military operation in Taez

Egypt kills 5 Sudanese migrants near border with Israel

Anti-Muslim hate crimes rise 300 percent in Britain

Russia eases restrictions on nuclear cooperation with Iran

Gulf leaders to hold annual summit on December 10

Ex-Gathafi Minister arrested over murder of UK policewoman

UK boosts military spending as pressure grows to join anti-ISIS strikes

Israel bars Palestinians from West Bank settlement bloc

Iraq suspends northern flights due to danger posed by Russia missiles

Syria army advances against ISIS in central province of Homs

Pro-Kurdish leader escapes assassination attempt in Turkey

Tunisia group claims beheading of young shepherd on behalf of ISIS

Kerry arrives in Abu Dhabi for Syria discussions

Three Palestinians killed as fresh violence hits West Bank

Iran arrests ISIS-linked cell near Iraq border

Brussels remains on high alert for second day in a row

Israel seeks to strip citizenship of those who join ISIS

France warns Libya as ISIS gains ground

Fear escalates as ISIS edges closer to Syria Christian town

Iran sentences reporter Jason Rezaian to prison