Shebab Islamists abandon last stronghold in Somalia | Pakistan Today

Shebab Islamists abandon last stronghold in Somalia

Al-Qaeda linked Shebab fighters Saturday abandoned their last bastion in Somalia, retreating from the port city of Kismayo almost a year after Kenya sent troops to rout the Islamists. The withdrawal from the southern city that has been a key economic lifeline for the insurgents, came a day after African Union troops launched a major assault to finally dislodge the rebels. “The military command of Shebab mujahedeen ordered a tactical retreat at midnight” from the southern city, Shebab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage told AFP. The fall of Kismayo is the latest in a string of major losses of territory for the militia. Residents confirmed that the Islamist fighters seemed to have moved outside city lines and that their radio station, Radio Andalus, was off the air. “We don’t know where they went to… but early this morning the last military vehicle left the town,” said Hassan Ali, a resident. “Even their radio station is off air,” he added. Shebab fighters on the ground also confirmed what they said was a tactical retreat. “We got orders from our superiors to withdraw from the city…. This is part of broader military tactics we have set for the enemy,” Sheikh Mohamed Abu-Fatma, a Shebab commander, told AFP by telephone. The Kenyan army said it would move into the city soon. “As soon as we consolidate, we will move to take the rest of the city,” Kenya Defence Forces spokesman Cyrus Oguna told AFP. He said the northern part of Kismayo was under the complete control of the allied forces but as of Friday night “some parts of the south were still under the Shebab.” Rage said that the Shebab withdrawal was “done in an orderly manner after five years of proper Islamic Sharia law in Kismayo,” and that his troops moved away “to prevent civilian deaths.” The port has been a key source of revenue from exports of charcoal. Residents said that the withdrawing Shebab bust open the gates of the main prison in Kismayo and the police station. “Last night they have released the prisoners from the jail and I saw three civilians shot dead by Shebab after accusing them of spying, they left and no one of them is here today,” Abdikarim Hussein, another resident said. Eye witnesses said that sporadic looting of former Shebab administrative offices by a few residents was on-going.

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