Mogadishu: In a significant development, African Union (AU) forces on Friday took control of parts of Kismayo, the last major Islamist militant bastion in southern Somalia.
According to Kenya`s military, “The AU forces have launched a massive offensive against Al-Qaeda linked Shebab insurgents after entering the southern Somali port city.”
The rebels and city residents however contradicted the claims and said that AU troops were still on the outskirts of the city that the Army has been targeting for days.
"It was a joint operation both on air and ground, we finally entered Kismayo at 0430 IST," Kenyan Army spokesman Cyrus Oguna was quoted as telling mediamen.
"We can’t give casualty figures at the moment, the damage has not been assessed, but I can tell you our forces are already in Kismayo," Oguna said.
Sheik Mohamed Abu Fatuma, a Shebab commander in Kismayo, however denied that soldiers had entered the city.
Kismayo is the last major bastion of the Shebab, who have lost most of their other strongholds to the 17,000-strong African Union force -- of which Kenya is a part -- as well as allied Ethiopian forces.
Kenyan forces have been targeting the port for days and on Tuesday fighter jets bombarded the city`s airport.
With Agency Inputs