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 Cyrus Oguna said his force was still trying to check whether al Shabaab had withdrawn, and would move into the city if the rebels did not put up resistance.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.
Conservative bill was widely expected to fail in the chamber
Washington urges Moscow to reign in ally amid offensive in de-escalation zone
‘Koko touched lives of millions as an icon for interspecies communication and empathy’, Gorilla Foundation says
Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says they will look into strengthening transatlantic bond in summit next month
Administration to no longer require immediate legal proceedings for undocumented adults who cross illegally with children
Trump administration makes request following backlash over its immigration policy
President says he will take ‘preemptive’ action to halt the actions that have drawn widespread criticism
Al-Sadr’s Sairoon bloc fails to form governing coalition with Al-Wataniya, National Wisdom Movement
Top Trump advisers arrive in Cairo after earlier stops in Jordan, Saudi Arabia
Official results of May 12 elections have been dogged by controversy
Muhammed Ebu Dekka was wounded by Israeli gunfire on May 14, says Palestinian Health Ministry
Protestors march from Bryant Park to United Nations headquarters
U.S. withdrew from UN rights council, accusing it of being hypocritical and biased against Israel
New rule is latest effort by Trump to dismantle former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act