Hundreds of Al-Shabaab fighters and some of their top commanders have surrendered to African Union peacekeeping forces following four days of attacks on their bases near Kismayu.
By Wednesday, more than 200 militants had surrendered in Afmadow town, according to security officials.
The surrender of the militants is seen as a major boost to African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) forces as the defectors are likely to reveal Al-Shabaab’s war plans.
It also emerged on Wednesday that the Kenyan contingent of Amisom forces and their Somali allies were advancing towards Biibi from Miido which they liberated on Friday night.
Kenya Defence Forces spokesman Cyrus Oguna confirmed that the troops were preparing to capture Biibi before advancing to Kismayu.
“They are making progress and moving forward. Our troops will be in Biibi very soon,” Col Oguna said.
He could, however, not immediately confirm the surrender of Al-Shabaab militants, saying he was still seeking more information from the battlefront.
Biibi town is located about 90km from Kismayu and KDF intends to use it as one of its forward operation bases. From Biibi, the troops will head to Janai-Abdalla before closing in on Kismayu.
Amisom spokesperson Ali Aden Hamoud told Nation that Ugandan and Burundian troops had made progress in the war against Al-Shabaab.
Military sources said the Ugandan and Burundian forces were at Harbole, a town near Kismayu from where they were waiting for orders to take over the port city.
Other towns that have been targeted in the Jubba region include Jilib and Bulla-Hajji from where another Kenyan forces will attack Kismayu.
Hundreds of residents are fleeing Kismayu to avoid being caught up in the clash between the militants and Amisom forces. The residents are heading to the town of Bawawe and Marka, east of Kismayu.
Marka was recently liberated by Amisom troops fighting alongside the Somali National Army. In the recent past, Al-Shabaab has blocked some of the town’s 90,000 residents and another 70,000 living in surrounding areas from fleeing.
Kenyan forces are optimistic that they will be able to liberate the city from the militants who have controlled it since August 2008 when they defeated former Jubba Valley Alliance Colonel Aden Shire (Barre Hirrale), who ruled the town for years.
On Monday, seven Al-Shabaab fighters, including a senior commander, were killed in an Amisom raid in Kismayu. The missile strikes were conducted by Kenya Navy vessels in the Indian Ocean.