NAIROBI, Sept. 30 (Xinhua) -- Troops from UN-backed peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somalia National Army (SNA) have captured the town of Canjeel in outskirts of Kismayo in southern part of the Horn of Africa nation, officials said on Sunday.
AMISOM Sector 2 Commander, Brigadier Anthony Ngere said the soldiers have advanced to within 5 km of the port city of Kismayo, a day after they pushed al Qaida-affiliated militants from the southern Somali town of Canjeel.
"The capture of Canjeel has opened the way for more of our forces to advance towards Kismayo in support of our operations there," Ngere said in a statement issued in Nairobi on Sunday evening.
"Our aim is to degrade the ability of the Al-Shabaab who threaten and oppress the people of Somalia, disrupting the country's peace process," he added.
The east African nation has been involved in efforts to bring stability and peace to Somalia, its northern neighbor, with Kenyan troops serving in the AMISOM, which along with government and allied forces, have been liberating large parts of Somalia from the control of Al-Shabaab militants, as well as progress on its political front.
Kenyan officials said they have been encouraged by recent political developments in Somalia, particularly the selection of a new President, and parliament and adoption of a new Constitution.
The capture of the town came two days after AMISOM forces and allied forces conducted an amphibious landing on the beaches north of Kismayo and have so far secured the northern parts of the city, including the road leading to the capital Mogadishu, the Kismayo University, and the old airport.
Ngere said the main force is approaching the city from the northwest. Over the last one month, the joint forces have secured a string of towns and centers on the road between Afmadow and Kismayo including Miido, Bibi and Jana Cabdalla.
"As we move into the southern parts of Kismayo, we are taking every precaution necessary to minimize the impact of our operations on the civilian populace. We have established No-Fire Zones around markets, schools, mosques and hospitals," he said, calling on any Al-Shabaab fighters remaining in the city to lay down their arms
Ngere congratulated the Somali and AMISOM forces for a job well done as the troops intensify their match to liberate civilians in the southern part of Somalia.
"From our current location, our intent is to conduct systematic pacification operations until Kismayo is secure and the people are able to conduct their business without interference," he said.
Kismayo, with a population of about 200,000 people, is the third largest city of Somalia which is considered the hub of the militant group, Al-Shabaab, which formally merged with the dreaded global terror network, the al Qaida, after several years of pledging loyalty and ideological similarities.
Ngere also urged the international community and humanitarian agencies to expedite the provision of much needed humanitarian assistance to the population in the liberated areas. "We stand ready to facilitate any such efforts to relieve the suffering of the Somali people," he said.