AU troops are reported to have entered the key Somali port of Kismayo for the first time since a beach assault forced Islamist militiamen to flee the city. Kismayo was the al-Shabab militants’ last major stronghold.
Witnesses said that Kenyan troops from the African Union Mission In Somalia (AMISOM) had entered Kismayo along with Somali army soldiers and pro-government militia. They are reported to have faced no resistance as they moved into the city, however there were conflicting reports as to just how many soldiers and militiamen were involved in the operation.
"We have won. We have driven the terrorists out of here," a spokesman for the pro-government militia Ras Kamboni Brigades told the DPA news agency. "The situation in Kismayo is quiet and peaceful this evening. We hope by tomorrow morning, life will be back to normal," Abdinasir Seerar added.
Witnesses said that heavily armed Kenyan and Somali troops had spread out around Kismayo shortly after entering the city.
"We will conduct house-to-house searches in the next days in the neighborhoods of Kismayo because we believe there are still some al-Shabab fighters there," DPA quoted an unnamed senior Somali security official as saying.
Al-Shabab militants, who are aligned with the al-Qaeda terror network, pulled out of Kismayo in the early hours of Saturday after a military assault launched by AU forces a day earlier.
Observers say that if the AU and Somali government forces are successful in fully driving al-Shabaab out of the city, it will be a major strategic blow to the group. Kismayo was the last major urban center controlled by the militants and taxes they collected at the city's port were one of their biggest sources of revenue.
ANISOM, a 17,000-strong force, is fighting to defeat al-Shabab across Somalia so that the government of the United Nations-backed newly elected president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud can take full control of the country, after more than two decades of civil war.
Al-Shabab fighters continue to control large swathes of rural territory in southern and central Somalia.
pfd/ch (dpa, AFP, AP)