|Hard hit Al-Shabaab.Courtesy picture|
Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- The Africa Union peacekeeping forces in Somalia (AMISOM) and local government troops on Wednesday captured another key town in the south from the
rebel group Al-Shabaab, the Kenyan military said.
Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) spokesman Col. Cyrus Oguna said the KDF and Somali National Army (SNA) captured Jana Cabdalla, a key rebel stronghold in the Lower Jubbat
region at 2:45 p.m. local time."During the operation, the allied forces encountered a series of resistance in the last three days that culminated in the capture of the town.
Several Al-Shabaab militants were killed in the engagement and assorted weapons and ammunition recovered," Oguna said in Nairobi. He said two KDF personnel and five
SNA soldiers sustained minor injuries in the military operation. "The injured soldiers were flown to Dobley for medical attention," Oguna said.
Janaa Cabdalla is 50 km away from Al-Shabaab's main base in Kismayu. Its capture signifies a milestone in the AMISOM offensive to liberate the Indian Ocean port
city.Kismayu, Somalia's third largest city, is considered the hub of Al-Shabaab, which formally merged with the dreaded global terror network Al-Qaida, after years of pledging
loyalty and ideological similarities. The strategic town has seen some of the most intensified battles since the deployment of the Kenyan troops in mid-October 2011. Kenyan
naval warships and helicopter gunships are shelling Al-Shabaab's positions in Kismayo.
The capture came as the UN humanitarian official for Somalia discussed with Kenyan officials how to protect civilians as the military operations to take Kismayo intensify. UN
Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Mark Bowden held talks in Nairobi with Kenya's Minister of State for Defense Yusuf Haji and Chief of Defense Forces Gen.
Julius Karangi, following the recent escalation of fighting near Kismayo and the spike in civilian displacement from the town. "I welcome Kenya's assurances and reiterate my
call for all parties to the conflict to make every effort to minimize the impact of conflict on civilians and to allow full humanitarian access to all people in need," Bowden said in
a statement on Wednesday.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR said last week that about 3,500 Somalis left Kismayo in the past three months as the soldiers intensified their military operations against Al-
Shabaab. The development also came as AMISOM called for calm among residents of Kismayo, following reports of Al-Shabaab fighters fleeing the town. AMISOM Deputy
Force Commander Simon Karanja said the African peacekeeping force was concerned about reports that civilians were being attacked by militants in their homes and being
forced to flee the town. "We appeal for all to remain calm. AMISOM's intent remains to liberate the people of Kismayo to enable them to lead their lives in peace, stability and
security," Karanja said in a statement.
Troops from AMISOM's Kenyan contingent have captured a string of towns on the ground from Afmadow to Kismayo, most recently the strategic town of Bibi. "We urge all
the fighters remaining in Kismayo to lay down their arms. Already a number of them have contacted us indicating their wish to cease fighting and we have assured them of
their safety if they give themselves up to our forces," Karanja said. The military commander also appealed to humanitarian agencies to come to the aid of the people fleeing to
areas liberated by AMISOM and Somali security forces. "We stand ready to facilitate any efforts to ease the suffering of the population," he said
–Meanwhile Ronald Njoroge reports that Kenya and top United Nations humanitarian official for Somalia on Wednesday discussed how to protect civilians as the military operations in the strategic
port city of Kismayu intensify.
Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) have intensified their ground, naval gunfire and airstrikes to Kismayu, the last remaining stronghold of terrorist group, Al-Shabaab, one of the
many factions that have on various dates ruled over Somalia. The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Mark Bowden, held talks in Nairobi with Kenya's
Minister of State for Defence Yusuf Haji and Chief of Defense Forces, General Julius Karangi following the recent escalation of fighting near Kismayo and the spike in civilian
displacement from the town. "I welcome Kenya's assurances and reiterate my call for all parties to the conflict to make every effort to minimize the impact of conflict on
civilians and to allow full humanitarian access to all people in need," Bowden said in a statement issued after the meeting.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said last week that about 3,500 Somalis have left the key port of Kismayo in the past three months as the soldiers intensify their military
operations against Al- Shabaab. UNHCR's Population Movement Tracking (PMT) data released on Sept.13 shows that majority of the displaced (1,500) went to the
neighbouring district of Afmadow, mostly to the towns of Afmadow and Dobley.The Somali militants have imposed restrictions on people moving out of the city to other parts
of Lower Juba, a move that has resulted in many fleeing the anticipated conflict to move to Mogadishu.
According to UNHCR, about 800 individuals were displaced to Mogadishu which had been enjoying relative peace since the AMISOM forces the insurgents out of the city. In
his statement, Bowden said while humanitarian actors remain neutral and strictly independent of military and political processes, they rely on all sides to gain access to those
in need. Kismayu, Somalia's third largest city is considered the hub of the militant group, Al-Shabaab, which formally merged with the dreaded global terror network, the Al-
Qaida, after several years of pledging loyalty and ideological similarities.
The KDF which officially joined the African Union Peacekeeping Mission (AMISOM) on June 2 after the signing of the agreement with AU is using naval warships which are
patrolling the coast off Kismayo targeting militant camps and bases in the economic hub. Sources said several fighters of the Al-Qaida allied group were killed during the
airstrike which has disrupted operations of the militants. But Kismayo unlike Afgooye supplies the insurgents with steady income in the form of taxes and is an extremely
strategic city for Al-Shabaab fighters who have reportedly reinforced their numbers in the port city which is home to top leadership of the ragtag.
The offensive is part of the initial stages of the Kismayu operation which aims at destroying all defensive positions of the militants in the sea port city before the AU soldiers
storm the city. Bowden said the Kenyan defence minister assured him that the soldiers who launched the crossed border incursion into Somalia mid October 2011 would use
minimum force in order to protect civilians from crossfire. "Today, Kenya's Minister of State for Defence assured me that the KDF would do everything possible to minimize
the impact of their ongoing military operation on civilians," Bowden said. He said the minister also told him that the KDF who are about 50km from Kismayo where the military
operations will be concentrated in the next few days, would help ensure humanitarian access to all people in need. (Xinhua)