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 Cyrus Oguna said his force was still trying to check whether al Shabaab had withdrawn, and would move into the city if the rebels did not put up resistance.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.
The clashes took place between Rwandan rebels and a local Mai-Mai militia
Russian president says they will work with regional countries not to target 'moderate opposition' groups
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius says that he could envisage Syrian regime troops taking part in the fight to crush the ISIL group
Two presidents agreed to 'exchange information about which territories are occupied by the healthy part of the opposition rather than terrorists, and will avoid targeting them with our airstrikes'
Speaking alongside Greek premier, Palestinian president warns Israel not to turn perennial Mideast conflict into 'religious' dispute
Businessmen were in Krasnodar city to attend an international agricultural fair
Merkel’s coalition government promises to send reconnaissance jets to region to support France in airstrikes against ISIL
Russia urges citizens not to travel to Turkey citing 'terror threat'
Data show estimated net migration numbers reached a record 336,000 as of June 2015
Buhari, who came to power in May, has made crushing the six-year rebellion a priority and in August gave his military commanders until the year-end to defeat the extremists
'The god whom we seek to serve is a god of peace. His holy name must never be used to justify hatred and violence,' Pope Francis says
Sacking of French Muslim social worker for wearing religious garb did not violate freedom-of-religion law, says court
The toll is 18 dead, 11 hurt, almost 100 homes burned down in the village of Wogom
'We still have not heard any articulate apologies from Turkey's highest political level nor any proposals to compensate for the harm and damage,' says Russian president
Francois Hollande and Matteo Renzi also discuss fight against ISIL and the situation in Libya
At least 277 people have been killed in Burundi since the outbreak of the political and security crisis in April 2015, the UN has said in a statement