Somali troops roll into once rebel bastion of Kismayu

Mon Oct 1, 2012 1:33pm GMT

By Abdi Sheikh

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Hundreds of Somali government troops and allied militia fighters deployed throughout the centre of the former al Shabaab rebel stronghold of Kismayu on Monday, sending panicked locals scrambling for cover.

Residents said there was no immediate retaliation from the al Qaeda-linked militants who fled the southern port city on Friday after Kenyan and Somali troops launched an assault by sea, air and land.

"We have now seen troops walking in the town. We are running into houses and shops have closed. We are afraid of explosions," said resident Ismail Nur.

Mohamud Farah, a spokesman for Somali's army in the southern Juba regions, said 450 government soldiers and fighters from an allied militia had deployed in the city centre to patrol the sandy streets and twisting alleyways.

Another resident, Halima Farah, said Kismayu had turned into a ghost-town. Troops had occupied the police headquarters building and district administration office, she said.

"I can also see through the cracks of windows that some of them are on the rooftops near those positions," Farah told Reuters by telephone.

Al Shabaab has said that although it had retreated from Somalia's second biggest city, its fighters were poised to engage the allied troops once they entered the city centre, threatening to turn the streets into a "battlefield".

"So far there has been no resistance," Farah said.   Continued...

An undated handout photograph released by Kenya's Ministry of Defence on September 29, 2012, shows members of the Kenyan Defence Forces during an operation at an undisclosed location in Somalia. Kenyan troops attacked the Somali port city of Kismayu on Friday, seeking to drive al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants from their last major stronghold and end a five-year rebellion. The loss of the southern port would deal a huge blow to al Shabaab as it is a lucrative source of revenue and a centre for operations over areas it has controlled in Somalia since 2007, but by nightfall, it was not clear who was in control. REUTERS/Kenya Ministry for Defense/Handout
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