Kenya troops launch beach assault, air strikes on Somalia port of Kismayo 28 Sep 28, 2012 - 1:01:57 PM
KISMAYO, Somalia Sep. 28, 2012 (Garowe Online) - Kenyan troops serving as part of the African Union's peacekeeping operation in Somalia, known as AMISOM, have stormed the rebel-held southern Somali port city of Kismayo in the early hours of Friday, Garowe Online reports.
Kenyan troops launched a massive beach assault around 3am local time, according to Kismayo residents. Kismayo, located 500km south of Mogadishu, is the last stronghold of Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Shabaab militant group fighting to overthrow Somalia's UN-backed federal government.
Heavy fighting ensued near the beach and entered into the city, according to local sources, "both forces are fighting inside the city."
Unconfirmed reports say Kenyan troops have seized the presidential compound and the Kismayo airport and are using it as a base of operations and pushing the Al Shabaab militants back inside the city.
Kenyan military officials have told media in Nairobi that Kenyan troops launched "an amphibious assault" on Kismayo beach.
Al Shabaab spokesman Abdiaziz Abu Musab confirmed to reporters that there is "heavy fighting" going inside Kismayo.
Local residents reported Al Shabaab uses anti-aircraft guns and Kenyan warplanes have bombarded Al Shabaab militant targets inside Kismayo.
Kismayo, capital of Lower Jubba region, is a strategic port that has served as a major base and source of revenue for Al Shabaab since the militants seized the city in August 2008.
Meanwhile, Somali local forces aided by Kenyan AMISOM ground troops are pushing towards Kismayo from three directions, according to military sources.
UN agencies have estimated that over 10,000 civilians have fled Kismayo since last week, fearing the growing fighting between the two sides.