Kenyan troops fighting in Somalia have captured another key town from the Al-Shabaab rebels.
They took control of Afmadow in southern Somalia after a two-day offensive, Kenya Defence Forces spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir said.
Afmadow is viewed as the gateway to the lucrative port of Kismayu and its capture clears the way for the Kenyan soldiers, now fighting under the African Union in Somalia (Amisom), to wipe out the militants.
“Our soldiers have taken control of all routes leading to and from Afmadow. They are now in a small town called Bibi, which is about 70 kilometres from Kismayu,” said Major Chirchir.
The port of Kismayu is the ultimate target of the Kenyan military because it has for years provided the militants with financial lifeline.
Kenyan troops joined the Amisom force in February following a resolution of the United Nations increasing the number of African Union peacekeepers in Somalia to 17,731, from 12,000.
Maj Chirchir could not confirm whether there were any casualties, but press reports quoted the militants denying that they had been pushed out of Afmadow.
“The so-called Kenyan troops are always dreaming to capture Afmadow, but our mujahideen forces chased them away several times,” a radio station run by the militants quoted Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Mus’ab, an Al-Shabaab spokesman.
Other reports from a community radio station in Somalia said that the militants had fled the town before the arrival of the Kenyan troops.
Back home, two people were killed on Thursday when an improvised explosive devise went off at a public park in Wajir town.
Two others were seriously hurt in the Wednesday night explosion.
One person died on the spot while the second succumbed to injuries as he was undergoing treatment at Wajir District Hospital.
The injured are in a stable condition in the same hospital.
North Eastern provincial police boss Leo Nyongesa said the 7.30pm explosion in Bula Barwaqo area happened moments after a boda boda operator stopped to drop a passenger at a fast food eatery next to the park.
It was not clear whether the explosive was detonated by the rider or the bystanders who were also injured.
Tension is rising in the town after the attack and there are fears that locals might not attend today’s Madaraka Day celebrations.
Mr Nyongesa said the motive behind the attack was not clear since the device was detonated in an unoccupied park.