KDF, Amisom just 40km from Kismayu

By Cyrus Ombati

Kenyan forces under the African Mission in Somalia (Amisom) backed by Somali troops and allied militia have captured a strategic town 40km from Kismayu.

The capture of Janaa Cabdalla came as Amisom continued its advance on the heavily forti?ed port regarded as the ?nal major stronghold of Al Shabaab in southern Somalia. Janaa Cabdalla, located on lower Juba region fell after three days of ?ghting.

"Its capture signi?es a major milestone in Amisom's offensive towards the liberation of the port city of Kismayu," said colonel Cyrus Oguna, the Information Operations Of?cer of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF).

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Scores of Al Shabaab militants were killed in the battle and assorted weapons and ammunition recovered, Colonel Oguna said. 

KDF jets destroyed three pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns, popularly known as "technical". Colonel Oguna added that two KDF personnel and ?ve Somalia National Army soldiers sustained minor injuries in the operation. The injured soldiers were ?own to Dobley for medical attention.

Janaa Cabdalla’s seizure by Amisom and its allies came ?ve days after the capture of another strategic town of Bibi in southern Somalia.

Troops from Amisom’s Kenyan contingent have captured a string of towns on the road from Afmadow and Horbole as they advance to Kismayu.

The port, located near the border with Kenya, is strategic to the militia because they generate revenue from its shipping trade to fund their insurgency.

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Militants to surrender

Amisom troops have been advancing tactfully on Kismayu and de-mining roads along the way. Amisom Deputy Force Commander Maj Gen Simon Karanja asked the militants to surrender before the ?nal assault on Kismayu. "We urge all the ?ghters remaining in Kismayu to lay down their arms. Already a number of them have contacted us indicating their wish to cease ?ghting, and we have assured them of their safety if they give themselves up to our forces," Gen Karanja said.

"The capture of Kismayu is imminent. Kenya Government extends amnesty to Kenyans ?ghting in Somalia as Al Shabaab. Retreat peacefully now," KDF said separately in its of?cial twitter account. Gen Karanja called for calm among residents of Kismayu following reports leaders of the Al Qaeda-af?liated Al Shabaab terrorists were ?eeing the town.

"Amisom’s intent remains to liberate the people of Kismayu to enable them to lead their lives in peace, stability and security," Maj-Gen Karanja added in a statement posted on Amisom’s website last evening. He also expressed concerns about the safety of civilians.

Said Maj-Gen Karanja: "Amisom is concerned about reports that civilians are being attacked by militants in their homes and being forced to ?ee  the town."  He appealed to humanitarian agencies to assist those ?eeing to liberated areas.

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"We want to ease the suffering of the population," he said. The militants have denied they are ?eeing the port city but media reports have cited locals indicating they had seen hundreds of militants leaving Kismayu in armed pick-up trucks, taking heavy equipment with them.

Kenyan forces have overrun several militant outposts to the north and southwest of Kismayu in the past two days, pushing to within 30km of Somalia’s second-biggest city. "Kismayu is poised for capture.

We don’t expect any resistance once we get to the city," Col Oguna said. Kenya Navy ships and Air Force jets have been shelling Al Shabaab bases in Kismayu to soften targets ahead of a much anticipated ground assault.

Last month, Al-Shabaab lost control of Merca, the third biggest port city after Mogadishu and Kismayu to AU troops.

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KDFal shabaabkismayuamisom