African Union troops have captured a key town near the port city of Kismayu, killing more than 50 Al-Shabaab militia in four days of fighting, military sources said on Wednesday.
KDF spokesman Col Cyrus Oguna confirmed the capture of Jana Abdalla, which is 40 km from Kismayu.
“Jana Abdalla was seized by KDF and Amisom forces at about 14.45 and several Al-Shabaab fighters neutralised. The body count is still going on,” Col Oguna.
He said two KDF personnel and five Somali National Army soldiers were slightly injured. “They were flown to Dobley for medical attention,” he said.
The capture of the town, one of the few in southern Somalia that was still under Al-Shabaab control, comes at a time African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) troops have surrounded Kismayu ahead of a major offensive to free the last Al-Shabaab stronghold.
The forces, fighting alongside the Somalia National Army and the Ras-Kamboni militia, recently captured key towns around the port city.
In the past fortnight, Amisom has captured Biibi and Miido towns and several villages as it advances towards Kismayu.
On Wednesday, the AU troops were advancing on Birta Dheer, a strategic Al-Shabaab outpost 60 km west of Kismayu.
Meanwhile, the United Nations resident and humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, Mr Mark Bowden on Wednesday met Defence minister Yusuf Haji and Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Julius Karangi, to discuss the safety of civilians during the operation.
Mr Haji assured the UN official that KDF would do everything to safeguard civilians and promised that humanitarian activities were not disrupted.
“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,” Mr Bowden said.
A statement issued by Amisom Deputy Force Commander Maj. Gen. Simon Karanja, called for calm among residents of the southern port city of Kismayu following reports of Al Qaeda-affiliated al Shabaab terrorists were attacking civilians as they fled the town.
“Amisom is concerned about reports that civilians are being attacked by militants in their homes and being forced to flee the town,” said Maj. Gen. Karanja said. “We appeal for all to remain calm."