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The battle to loosen militant Islamist group al-Shabaab's grip on Daynile, its last Mogadishu stronghold, continued overnight Tuesday, with at least four people killed and three wounded in heavy shelling and gunfire.
Meanwhile, Kenyan forces advancing on al-Shabaab-held towns said they were aiming to have boots on the ground in Kismayo within one week.
“The fighting started after al-Shabaab launched an attack on government and AMISOM bases in the area," Abdirahman Olow, a resident in Daynile, told Somalia Report. “Some mortar shells pounded into residential areas, killing civilians."
Government officials also confirmed the fighting was heavy.
“The insurgents struggled to take back positions they lost so far in the latest offensive by the government and AMISOM troops,” Ahmed Mohamed Nur, a government official, told Somalia Report. “They were repulsed by our forces and we inflicted heavy casualties."
Al-Shabaab did not comment on the latest fighting as residents continued to fleeing the district.
AMISOM and the TFG last week began operations to flush out the remnants of al-Shabaab from Mogadishu, but have met heavy resistance, including an ambush that killed 10 African Union peacekeepers, according to AMISOM. Al-Shabaab said it had killed many more, and displayed the bodies of 54 pro-government forces in Elasha Biyaha, but AMISOM accused the insurgents of attempting to pass off its own dead as AMISOM and TFG soldiers.
Al-Shabaab is now facing challenges on several fronts, with the AU and TFG pushing in Mogadishu, and Kenyan forces fighting alongside government troops and militia approaching Afmadow and also advancing up the coast to Kismayo.
Kenya sent in forces after a spate of kidnappings of foreigners with a view to crushing al-Shabaab and protecting its vital tourism industry. A Kenyan military official, speaking to Somalia Report on condition of anonymity, said that they were planning to be in Kismayo within a week.
The port town has been bombarded by air strikes - although it is not clear whether Kenyan, US of French forces are responsible - in preparation for the assault.
Despite Kenya's optimism, their untested forces have yet to face real opposition in the advance, and the battle for Afmadow could be a key indicator of whether a one-week timescale for taking Kismayo is realistic.