, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 6 – A senior Al Shabaab commander was among seven people killed as Kenya Defence Forces continued shelling the Somali port town of Kismayu.
Military Spokesman Colonel Cyrus Oguna said the attack was part of a push by the African Union force in Somalia (AMISOM) to capture the city.
“During the shelling on September 3, we killed seven al Shabaab members including a senior commander based in Kismayu,” said Oguna.
Tuesday’s bombardment was conducted from aboard naval warships that are positioned strategically off Kismayu.
“The shelling is being done in preparation for our foot soldiers to enter Kismayu. As at now, we are between 80 and 90 kilometres from the town,” Oguna added.
About 149 insurgents have been killed since Wednesday last week when AMISOM launched its long-awaited push towards Kismayu. The African Union (AU) forces have vowed to capture the strategic port town, which is key to financing and arming the al-Qaeda affiliated group.
The move on Kismayu comes as Somali MPs prepare to choose a new president under a UN-brokered peace plan. The election is due on September 10.
Kenya sent troops to Somalia last year, saying that it wanted al-Shabaab defeated because the militants threatened its security. Kenyan soldiers have since joined the AU force in the country, boosting its numbers to nearly 18,000.
Al Shabaab, which is affiliated to al-Qaeda, withdrew from Mogadishu last year after heavy fighting with AU and Somali government forces.
It still however controls many areas in southern and central Somalia.
In July, a UN report said the export of charcoal from Merca helped Al Shabaab generate millions of dollars despite a UN Security Council ban on countries buying charcoal from Somalia.
The report accused the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia of failing to uphold the ban.