African Union troops, consisting mainly of Kenyan military forces, have surrounded the port city of Kismayo, which they claim is the last stronghold of the Islamic militant group al-Shabab. A spokesman for the Kenyan army says that they have captured most of the town after an amphibious assault that has cornered the insurgents and pushed them back from the port. At present, the fighting appears to still be ongoing—and there are other reports that the city is far from government control—but it is a major offensive meant to bring the city back under control of the government in Mogadishu.
Al-Shabab, which is considered the Somali arm of al-Qaeda and has done battle with the government there for several years, has used the port to control much of the trade coming into and out of the country. By extorting payments from local businesses, levying their own form of taxes, and dominating the export of charcoal, Kismayo has become the group's main source of income. This blog post, written nearly a year ago by a former insurgent, argues that shutting down Kismayo would not actually cripple al-Shabab, but at the very least today's action demonstrates a commitment to fighting back and to Somalia's willingness to let the better equipped and better trained Kenyan army do battle on their shores.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.