Tuesday, 18 September 2012
Al-Shabaab fighters abandon key Somali port city as Government,AU forces close in
MOGADISHU, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) -- Residents in the southern Somali city of Kismayo say the fighters of Al-Shabaab are leaving the strategic port city as government troops backed by Kenyan contingent of the African Union peacekeeping forces advance.
Kismayo, 500 Km south of the capital Mogadishu, is one of the last key bastions of the militant group of Al-Shabaab which is affiliated with Al-Qaeda.
"They are taking everything: weapons, vehicles and generators with them. We don't know where they are fleeing but they seem to be heading to the forest around the city," a resident who called himself just Mohmoaud told Xinhua by phone from Kismayo.
Reports said that the radical group's fighters have also removed the equipment of Radio Andalus in Kismayo which supported them.
Allied forces were reportedly almost 50 km away from Kismayo and that it was matter of hours before the key port was seized by Somali government forces and Kenyan troops who are part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
Local people are also fleeing the city to avoid caught in an imminent battle for control of the port which has been a main revenue earner for the militant movement.
Businesses have also been closing their premises in Kismayo which remains tense and chaotic residents say.
Al-Shabaab has been on the back foot since losing large swathes of territory in Mogadishu and in parts of the south and center for the past year and half.
However, the group of Al-Shabaab denied reports of their abandoning the city saying that was propaganda and that they will fight what they called "the invading forces" to the end.
The fall of Kismayo, the last largest city port city in the hands of Al-Shabaab, will be a big below to the group.
Meanwhile Sudan and South Sudan on Tuesday resumed the air flights between them after five months of cessation.
A plane, belonging to Marsland Aviation Company, took off from Khartoum airport to Juab airport in South Sudan, with 50 passengers on board.
"The air flights between Khartoum and Juba have actually resumed after the completion of technical and administrative procedures," Abdul-Hafez Abdul-Rahim, spokesman of Sudan's Aviation Authority, told Xinhua Tuesday.
The aviation movement between Khartoum and Juba airports ceased on April 9 after the Sudanese authorities announced the beginning of implementation of new regulations to reclassify the flights between Khartoum and Juba from internal flights to international ones.
The aviation authorities then demanded the aviation companies operating between Khartoum and Juba to adjust their conditions to comply with international requirements.
The new regulations stipulated that aviation companies should abide by the transit procedures and obtain permission of entering the airspace of the other country besides that any passenger should obtain identification documents and complete relevant passport, immigration and visa procedures.
South Sudan was officially declared independent on July 9, 2011 following a referendum on self-determination for southern Sudan in which a majority of about 99 percent of the southerners voted for independence. (Xinhua)