World Bulletin/News Desk
Somalia's al Shabaab withdrew from their last major bastion of Kismayu overnight, the group and residents said, a day after Kenyan and Somali government forces attacked the southern port.
The loss of Kismayu will deal a major blow to the movement, weakening morale and depriving it of revenue, but is unlikely to mark the end of its five-year rebellion.
The group that once controlled large swathes of the lawless Horn of Africa country, have been turning to guerrilla-style tactics, harrying the country's weak government with suicide bombings and assassinations.
"We moved out our fighters ... from Kismayu at midnight," al Shabaab spokesman, Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, told Reuters on Saturday.
Rage threatened to strike back. "The enemies have not yet entered the town. Let them enter Kismayu which will soon turn into a battlefield," he said.
Locals confirmed the militants had pulled out under the cover of darkness but said the Kenyan troops, fighting under an African Union peacekeeping force's banner, and Somali soldiers were still camped on the city's outskirts.
There were reports of looting in some areas of the city.
"Al Shabaab has not perished, so the worry is what next," said local elder Ali Hussein.
Residents said the fighters who had abandoned Kismayu had moved to the jungles that lie between Kismayu and Afmadow as well as to other towns north of the port city like Jamame and Kabsuma.
Kenyan military spokesman Col. Cyrus Oguna said his force was still trying to check whether al Shabaab had withdrawn, and would move into the city if the rebels did not put up resistance.
Al Shabaab has pulled out of a number of urban areas including the capital, Mogadishu, in recent months under pressure from advancing African Union forces. But their continuing guerrilla attacks still pose a big challenge for newly-elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
'There is both the frightening brutality of Bashar al-Assad's regime... and there is complicity on the part of Russia and Iran,' Laurent Fabius says
'Given the humanitarian disaster happening before the eyes of the world in and around Aleppo and up to the Turkish border, common action is urgently needed to enable humanitarian access,' German foreign ministry says
European lawmakers were set to assess damage in Gaza from 2014 Israeli military operation
Mostly, Muslim countries everywhere are the main losers of the shift in tastes, sector professionals say, as tourists move to destinations they consider 'safe'
British PM wants WikiLeaks founder to 'come out of that embassy and face the arrest warrant that is against him'
A foreign ministry letter addressed to a top BBC executive said a January report on the political crisis in Poland was 'biased', 'inaccurate' and drew 'unjustified conclusions'
'Increasing our NATO deployments sends a strong message to our enemies that we are ready to respond to any threat, and defend our allies,' UK defense secretary says
Matteo Renzi is keen on changing current 'wrong, bureaucratic approach' within the EU
'I expect defense ministers to agree to enhance our forward presence in the eastern part of our alliance... This will send a clear signal,' NATO chief says
'We need urgently to switch gears on relocation,' EU migration commissioner says
'You (Belgrade) have had more than a year to arrest them,' a judge says
'Without a substantial new effort to invigorate governance reforms and fight corruption, it is hard to see how the IMF-supported program can continue and be successful,' Christine Lagarde says
Laurent Fabius is expected to take up a position as head of France's Constitutional Court
During the rescue operation security forces also kill 31 militants in Borno state
Opposition calls for president to be removed from office over misuse of public funds
Several children have been killed in a suicide attack in Cameroon