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At 6:40pm Saturday evening, air and sea based strikes hit the port city of Kismayo, a stronghold of the al-Shabaab militant group in Somalia's Lower Juba region, killing three civilians. Residents believe the strikes were carried out by Kenyan naval and air forces which are preparing to seize the city from the Islamic militants with the help of forces from the Somalia government, African Union, and the pro-government Ras Kamboni militia.
Airplanes have been spotted flying low level over the city for the last week, likely conducting reconnaissance missions for this evening's attack. Residents also believed today's attack was a test of the city's defenses in preparation for the upcoming battle for control of Kismayo. Today's operation started from warships and then followed by fighter jets which targeted known military and residential sites for al-Shabaab fighters, according to residents.
As of this publishing, confirmed causalities include four members from one family. Mr Barre Jiis and one son were injured while two of his other children were killed in their home in Laanta Ganacsiga village. Elsewhere the strikes also hit at Marina village and killed an older woman.
“I received two injured people, a father and his son, who were hit by the strikes at their home this evening as well as the bodies of three civilians including an old mother. The father's condition is not as serious as compared to his son and we hope their health will be okay after we give them the necessary treatment. We can handle such patients and even in the future, which we expect with the coming offensive,” a local doctor who asked not to be named told Somalia Report.
Other sources contacted by Somalia Report said the building targeted was adjacent to the home of Shabaab’s chief security official, Sheikh Abdirahman Fiillow. His home, residents said, was damaged on one side.
After the strikes, one of Shabaab’s former religious officials, Sheikh Abdinasir Yussuf Abdalla, consoled Kismayo's civilians asking them to stay calm. He said the airstrikes were conducted by the Christian forces in anticipated of their plan to seize Kismayo and he urged the Islamic community to get ready to defend against the invasion. He ordered the people to take their weapons to the frontlines to defend their religion and themselves.
Kismayo civilians are tense and many have fled as fighting appears imminent.
“We feel frustrated about this incident today as well as the other fighting that is expected to take place soon. The community will be the most affected as the likely fierce fighting that will surface within the city. Al-Shabaab is expected to fight in the city which will add to the suffering of the civilians and the allied forces are inching to capture the city. At the present, the situation is tense and the future is unpredictable. We have families and children and we can’t flee. We don’t know where to escape as the situation deteriorates day-by-day,” Amina, a local resident, told Somalia Report.
The strikes came as the allied forces prepare to capture the city port by August 20th as promised by the Somali and Kenyan govenrments.
Once the allies seize Kismayo, governance of the city has yet to be determined with African Union, Somali, Kenyan and local militias vying for control. One militia, Ras Kamboni, is planning to be front and center on the advance to capture Kismayo. Their leader, Ahmed Madobe recently departed Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, for Afmadow to strategize the military operation to oust al-Shabaab from the city.
Somalia Report will continue to update this as more information becomes available.