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Somalia: Al Shabab loses Afgoye and Afmadow. Is Kismayo next?

Military advances by African Union troops and Somali forces have pushed the Islamist Al Shabab militia out of key towns. Is the Shabab headquarters of Kismayo next on the list?

By Alex ThurstonGuest blogger / May 31, 2012

African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops walk down the road between Afgoye and Baidoa after arriving in the town of Afgoye, west of the Somali capital Mogadishu, in this handout photo released on May 25.

Stuart Price/AU-UN Information Support Team/REUTERS

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•  A version of this post appeared on the blog "Sahel Blog." The views expressed are the author's own.

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On Friday, troops from Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) captured the town of Afgoye from the rebel movement al Shabab, in what the Associated Press called “the biggest victory over al-Shabab since the pro-government forces took control of the capital last August” (more here). Further south, troops from the Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF), who have been fighting in Somalia since October, took the town of Afmadow from al Shabab some time between yesterday and today (Kenyan troops also took the town of Hayo). The KDF’s next major goal is tocapture the port city of Kismayo – al Shabab’s “last key bastion” – by August.

McClatchy says the importance of Kismayo lies in the fees al Shabab charges at the port. Its loss would therefore deprive the group not only of territory but of much of its income.

Brief fighting occurred in Kismayo earlier this week, when Kenyan warships reportedly came under fire and shelled the city in response. “For the past couple of months,” VOA says, “Kismayo has come under fire targeting al-Shabab from air and sea.”

Here is a map showing Afgoye, Afmadow, and Kismayo, as well as the capital Mogadishu.

 MAP

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