Al-Shabaab leaves last Somalia town

Al-Shabaab leaves last Somalia town

MOGADISHU - Agence France-Presse
Al-Qaeda linked al-Shabaab militants abandoned their last bastion in Somalia, retreating from the port city of Kismayo almost a year after Kenya sent troops against the insurgents.

“The military command of al-Shabaab mujahedeen ordered a tactical retreat at midnight” from Kismayo, al-Shabaab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage said. Residents confirmed that the insurgents seemed to have moved outside city lines and that their radio station, Radio Andalus, had fallen silent.

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 fall of the port is the latest in a string of major losses of territory for the militia.

Al-Shabaab militants on the ground also confirmed what they said was a tactical retreat from the port, which has been a key source of revenue for the insurgents from exports of charcoal, as well as their main entry point for weapons. “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, an al-Shabaab commander, told.

The al-Shabaab seized Kismayo, estimated population between 160,000 and 190,000, from Somalia’s weak central government in 2008. The Kenyan military has been aiming to take Kismayo ever since it rolled troops and tanks across the border to fight the Islamist extremists almost a year ago in retaliation for attacks inside Kenya.