Conflict & Justice

Somalia: African Union troops to enter Kismayo after rebels flee



A truck transports soldiers from the African Union Mission in Somalia.


Stuart Price

Somalia's deputy prime minister, Hussein Arab Isse, said on Sunday that African Union troops comprised of Kenyan and Somali soldiers will move into Kismayo following the withdrawal of Al Shabaab militants.

Isse told Al Jazeera that the troops would enter the city later on Sunday. "We are entering Kismayo with caution and working very closely with people inside the city, however there are special forces inside Kismayo to ensure Al Shabaab fighters are not causing harm," he told Al Jazeera.

Agence France-Presse reported that chaos and lawlessness had ensued in Kismayo once the militants abandoned their last stronghold. The Kenyan army said helicopter gunships were being used to attack Al Shabaab bases to clear the way for a ground force.

Kenyan warships shelled the port city overnight Sunday, amid conflicting reports about how much of Kismayo was now controlled by AU forces, Reuters said.

The news agency said Kenya's navy may have been targeting remaining pockets of resistance in the city. AU troops are said to be proceeding carefully in Kismayo in case Al Shabaab's claim to have abandoned the city was a trap.

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The power vacuum between the troops arrival and the militants withdrawal left room for chaos, AFP reported. Residents reported that gunmen had killed at least three civilians since the militants' retreat. A resident told Al Jazeera that there was widespread looting, with houses being ransacked.

"We have received reports of the lawlessness within parts of the city.... We want to assure the civilians of Kismayo that their calls for order have been heard," Kenyan Defense Forces spokesman Cyrus Oguna told AFP.

"The troops are consolidating and making plans to expand into the southern part of the city," Oguna told Reuters. "A lot of caution must be exercised here. We don't want to get into a situation where we start to lose troops here and there."

An Al Shabaab official said the militants were waiting to engage the allied troops once they entered Kismayo.

"We are just waiting for the AU and Somali troops to enter the town. We shall fight them in streets and alleys. We abandoned the town. Why don't they go in if they have the guts?" Sheikh Hudayfa Abdirahman, Al Shabaab's head of the Jubba region, told Reuters.

An estimated 12,000 people have fled the city in the past four weeks, said Al Jazeera.

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