“The Kenyan Armed Forces have taken Kismayo. Our troops are safe and so far there has been no fighting”, said, in a cryptic statement, the Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) spokesman Cyrus Oguna on television in Nairobi, announcing the fall of the southern port of Kismayo, a bastion of the al-Shabab Somali insurgents. The Kenyan newspaper ‘Daily Nation’ added that “residents were advised to stay away from areas where the KDF and the Somali National Army (SNA) may inflict collateral damage.” The joint offensive on Kismayo began a few weeks ago while the collapse of the last al-Shabaab stronghold of resistance has been repeatedly announced as “imminent.”
However, as for the dynamics of the fighting and the end result, there has been another account presenting a rather different version of the events. Somali and Kenyan troops may only have penetrated Kismayo last night, around 02:00 local time, in some neighborhoods of the port, and that they have still not assumed full control of the rebel bastion. As for their part, the Al-Shabaab claim that clashes are ongoing, but nine kilometers from the city center.
There were casualties on both sides, but so far no death toll has been issued. On the ground, local witnesses cited by international agencies have reported that air strikes were launched gainst some neighborhoods while many insurgents have shifted toward the front. The Al Shabaab’s radio station is said to have continued the programming lineup.
For the past two days the Kenyan air force has bombarded several sites near the southern city, destroying an arsenal and a cache of weapons used by the insurgents. Last week, the KdF and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) took control of the city of Jana Cabdalla on the path towards Kismayo, 40 kilometers away. “We ask the residents of Kismayo to remain calm and to stay away from possible Al Shabaab targets. The safety and security is the first priority for us,” assured the KDF command. After the killing of six civilians on the outskirts of Kismayo by a Kenyan soldier, the United Nations has urged the military forces in Somalia to keep maximum control. Since the beginning of the month more than 10,000 people have fled the port city, fearing the final assault.