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Al-Shabaab militants, battling for control of Somalia, claimed to have repelled two warships near their stronghold of Kismayo, a port city in Somalia's Lower Jubba region.
"The mujahedeen fighters opened fire and repulsed two military ships that approached the coast of Kismayo. They were coming close to the coast when they were attacked," Sheikh Hassan Yaqub, a top al-Shabaab official in the port of Kismayo, told AFP.
Locals are claiming it was a Kenyan naval vessel, which was confirmed by Kenyan military spokesman, Cyrus Oguna, who told VOA, “they fired at us and we fired back." The Kenyan Navy consists of a handful of large patrol boats and smaller lightly armed motor boats.
"A ship came close to docking in the port. Al-Shabaab officials claimed it was Kenyan. The ship a shot missile (sic) and bullets and the Islamists responded with with missiles and the ship fled the area. Currently the city is very tense as the Kenyan Defense Forces inch towards the city," a local journalist told Somalia Report.
Other sources independent from the al-Shabaab source said the militants started the fight and at least one child has died when a 'mortar' landed on a house in the city.
In addition to Kenyan naval forces, both NATO and the European Union Naval Force Somalia (known as EU NAVFOR) have warships in the area as part of ongoing anti-piracy operations Ocean Shield and Atalanta, respectively.
EU NAVFOR, however, denied involvement in today's alleged incident.
"No EU Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR) warship is involved in an attack near by or on Kismayo," Timo M. Lange Media Operations Officer, told Somalia Report.
When approached for comment, NATO Shipping Centre's Duty Watchkeeper informed Somalia Report that, "We are unable to provide a comment on the incident as we have no information concerning any action by NATO vessels."
While this appears to be an attack on al-Shabaab rather than pirates, EU NAVFOR conducted their first land-based attack in Somalia in May of this year . A ship-based helicopter used weapons to destroy five skiffs and unknown material being assembled on the beach near Harardhere, according to the EU. However, our source claimed only three skiffs were destroyed. The closest village to the raid was Handulle which is in Mudug region about 11 miles from Harardhere.
The EU mission has been operational since late 2008 and in March of this year EU ministers voted to extend the operation until December 2014.
The presence of a naval ship offshore prompted a battle wagon (typically a flat bed or pickup truck with anti aircraft or heavy machine gun mounted on the back) to move to the dock and begin firing.
“Alhamdullillah (thanks to God), the enemies took an offensively sea fighting with us this Tuesday morning after they could not succeed in fighting with our militant youth. They sent a ship which penetrated our border, the sea port and they threw missiles that our mighty marine fighters repelled and fought back. In a short period of time, we chased them away," Abdifatah Mohamed Omar, a senior al-Shabaab official in Kismayo told Somalia Report.
“Our information is that the warship ship was Kenyan. They were exploring our presence but they saw the mujahidiins are brave and strong. Only one child died, and none of our fighters were injured,” explained the Sheikh.
A local port worker told Somalia Report that the Islamists started the fight and the naval warship responded.
“I was standing an area not far from Indhabararka. I saw the Islamist marine militants at Haanbeegar started to fire missiles and bullets at a warship and immediately the ship responded and fought back. I also heard a missile hit inside the city,” said Sallax Noor.
Somalia Report has confirmed one casualty, that of a child in Dallacada village.
The situation is tense in the port city and al-Shabaab officials are broadcasting radio messages telling residents to stay calm and indoors.