[QODLink]
Africa
Fighter jet targets southern Somali port
Al-Shabab stronghold Kismayo bombed from the air as Kenyan troops step up offensive against Somali rebel group.
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2011 13:14
Thousands are fleeing Afmadow as Kenyan soldiers close in on the town [Reuters]

A military jet has targeted the southern Somali port of Kismayo, an al-Shabab stronghold, as Kenyan and Somali government forces prepare to attack another town held by the rebel group.

A Kismayo resident told the Reuters news agency on Monday that the jet had bombed an al-Shabab base near the port.

"It dropped a huge shell, flew past, came and then dropped another shell," said Mahmoud Hassan.

An al-Shabab official who declined to be named also confirmed the news. "There were no casualties. We fired at the plane after the second bombardment and it has not come back," the senior official told Reuters.

However, the casualty figure has yet to be corroborated by independent sources, Reuters said.

Although the identity of the jet has not been confirmed, Kenyan troops began an air and ground offensive against al-Shabab in southern Somalia last week, blaming the group for several kidnappings of foreigners on its soil, including a French woman who later died in captivity.

A Kenyan military spokesman on Sunday said that a French navy ship had bombarded the town of Kuday, near Kismayo on Saturday night, but French officials have denied their forces were involved in any attacks.

The French embassy in the Kenyan capital Nairobi issued a statement on Monday refuting claims that French navy vessels carried out bombardments, arguing that "there are no French warships in the vicinity of this area" and that the "embassy would appreciate if the newspapers would kindly correct the false impression created on this matter". 

Controlled by pirates 

Al Jazeera's correspondent Peter Greste, based in Nairobi, said, "What we do know is that the Kenyan military spokesperson said the attack did take place on the town of Kuday, which we understand is under the control of pirates rather than al-Shabab."

The Kenyan military spokesman also said fighting was likely to occur in the town of Afmadow, near Kismayo, "very soon".

Hundreds of residents were fleeing Afmadow on Sunday in anticipation of the fighting. The spokesman, Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir, told AP that al-Shabab was regrouping in the town of Bula Haji to face the Kenyan troops.

Somali interim government forces are also joining the offensive against al-Shabab, backed by 9,000 African Union peacekeepers from Burundi and Uganda.

Al-Shabab retreated from Mogadishu amid a devastating famine a few months back, but have re-emerged by staging their deadliest single bombing in the capital earlier this month, killing more than 100 people.

The AU mission to Somalia force, also known as AMISOM, said in a statement on Sunday they had advanced to Mogadishu's outskirts.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Featured
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.