Kenyan troops in Somalia captured Miido town after battling Al-Shabaab militia, the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) has said.
Thirty-six militias were killed and five Kenya Defence Forces personnel went missing, added the AU mission statement.
A Kenyan soldier and three others from the Somali National Army were feared dead, reports that were neither confirmed by Amisom nor the Kenya Defence Force headquarters in Nairobi.
The Sunday Nation learnt that the fighting lasted the whole night, having started at 4 p.m. on Friday as the troops advanced towards Kismayu.
“This was a brave and important operation conducted by the Amisom forces in lower Juba.
"Securing the strategic town of Miido will allow the local community to rebuild their lives free from the terror and tyranny imposed by Al-Shabaab. I pay tribute to the bravery and commitment of all the soldiers involved in this operation.
"Amisom is committed to protecting hard won security gains to ensure Somalia continues on the road to sustainable peace,” said the Mission’s Force commander Lt-Gen Andrew Gutti.
The area is under the command of a Kenyan officer with troops fighting alongside others supporting Somalia’s weak government in Mogadishu.
“Five Amisom personnel are missing in action after the incident. Their status is currently unclear, but a search and rescue operation has been mounted. Three other Amisom soldiers sustained injuries and have been flown to Dobley for medical attention,” said Lt-Gen Gutti.
Kenya’s military spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir posted on his official tweeter account that three KDF soldiers were injured in the battle and five others had gone missing.
“Amisom forces together with TFG (Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government) soldiers in sector 2 captured Miido town and neutralised at least 36 Al-Shabaab militants.
"Seven Al-Shabaab technical vehicles and logistics supplies were destroyed while other assorted weapons and ammunition were recovered,” he said.
The fighting was still on by Saturday afternoon.
Al-Shabaab also used the social media claiming to have taken control of Afmadow after shooting down Kenya Army helicopters. KDF established one of its bases in the town after capturing it from the terrorist group months ago.
The reports were, however, denied by Amisom with Lt-Gen Gutti saying: “Afmadow remains in the full control and security of Amisom troops. Al-Shabaab has issued untrue and baseless propaganda suggesting otherwise.
"It is a desperate attempt by Al-Shabaab, misrepresenting the realities on the ground where Amisom troops are providing security and stability ...”
He added: “No helicopters have been attacked. This is also Al-Shabaab propaganda.”
Major Chirchir described Miido as having been a stronghold of Al-Shabaab, saying it offered “tactical advantage” in defending Kismayu, which is the ultimate target of Amisom.