African troops thwart Shebab attack in south Somali port


AFP – African troops in Somalia said they thwarted an attack Thursday by Islamist Shebab fighters on their base in the southern port city of Kismayo.

The African Union troops repulsed the Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab when they first attacked on Wednesday evening, the force, AMISOM, said in a statement.

In the early hours of Thursday morning “the militia returned to attack … but were engaged before they disembarked from their vehicle,” the statement went on, adding that the Shebab “suffered several casualties.”

The vehicle used by the assailants — the type of four-wheel drive favoured by NGOs but mounted with a machine gun — was destroyed, AMISOM said.

AMISOM troops wrested control of Kismayo from the Shebab in October 2012.

Several rival factions are battling for control of the port city, a strategic and economic hub in the southern Jubaland region. They include former Islamist chief Ahmed Madobe, who in May appointed himself “president” of Jubaland, and Bare Hirale, a former Somali defence minister who also leads a powerful militia.

Somalia’s government has demanded that Kenyan troops stationed in Kismayo as part of an African Union force be replaced, accusing them of backing Madobe’s Ras Kamboni militia, which opposes Mogadishu’s rule.

Kenyan troops, which invaded Somalia in 2011, fought alongside Madobe’s troops to oust the Shebab fighters from Kismayo in October 2012.

Kenya in June 2012 joined the now 17,700-strong AU force, which is mandated — and funded by the UN and European Union — to support the central government.