Somali Troops Enter al-Shabab’s Final Stronghold

Posted October 1st, 2012 at 8:50 am (UTC-5)
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Somali government forces have entered Kismayo, two days after militant group al-Shabab abandoned the strategic coastal city.

Witnesses confirm to VOA that government troops entered Kismayo on Monday and are taking control of former al-Shabab bases.

Residents appeared to welcome the troops. Some looting was reported after al-Shabab pulled out its remaining fighters on Saturday.

The Islamist militant group withdrew from Kismayo, its last major stronghold in Somalia, following an attack on Friday by Kenyan forces allied with the African Union.

The loss of the city is a major blow to al-Shabab, which used Kismayo's seaport to import weapons and raise money through taxes.

Johnnie Carson, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, warned that al-Shabab has been “effectively degraded” but not entirely defeated.

The militants have vowed to strike back from outside Kismayo.

Kenyan forces entered Somalia last year after a series of cross-border kidnappings that Kenya blamed on the militant group.

Al-Shabab has tried to overthrow Somalia's government and impose a hardline form of Islamic law in the country. The group once controlled most of southern and central Somalia, but had lost most of its territory in the past 18 months to pro-government forces.

The turn of events has raised hopes that a new Somali parliament and president, elected last month, can bring stability to the country. Somalia has endured more than 20 years of fighting and lawlessness since the fall of the last stable government in 1991.