Fighter jets and naval ships have began bombarding the outskirts of Kismayu as the onslaught on the Al Shabaab controlled port city began on Saturday. The attack targeted, among others, the residence of Al Shabaab's chief intelligence officer, Sheikh Abdirahman Fiillow, where several people were injured.
The attack on Kismayu comes after surveillance planes overflew the port several times last week taking aerial pictures. The attack also targeted Al Shabaab camps around the city. Al Shabaab press service, HSMPress, confirmed the attack, but blamed it on the Kenya Defence Forces. "KDF ships cowardly shelled Kismayu with mortars from afar. Several rounds of mortars have so far landed in the crowded city. The mortars indiscriminately targeted heavily populated residential areas," said the HSMPress tweet.
However, sources in Kismayu revealed that Al Shabaab leaders have started fleeing the the stronghold following the bombardment. Meanwhile, Ras Kamboni brigade leader Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed Islam, popularly known as Sheikh Madobe, recently returned to Afmadhow from Nairobi in preparation for the final assault on Kismayu. A United Nations humanitarian official in Somalia has said the fighting for control of Kismayu port is imminent and warned that civilians might be caught up in the war.
Mark Bowden expressed concern over reports that there have been civilian casualties in Kismayu following naval gunfire and airstrikes. He urged the fighting groups to avoid hitting civilians. "We have anticipated that this one could be one of the bigger battles and again there are large civilian population. There is a large IDP population and they are very likely to get caught up in the fighting," said Justin Brady, another UN official.