Hundreds of armed men belonging to the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) have taken control over Kismayo, Somalia’s third largest city.
The Islamists entered the city on Sunday and encountered no resistance from local forces affiliated with Defense Minister Bare Adam Shire Hirale, the Somali news portal SomaliNet reports.
Located some 300 miles south of the capital Mogadishu, Kismayo is considered a strategic coastal city and one of the last strongholds of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
Hirale is reported to have fled Kismayo as the Islamic forces entered the city. Unconfirmed reports indicate Hirale and his armed men are currently based in the Gedo region. It is not yet clear whether Hirale is preparing a counter-attack.
Established in 1991, the TFG is gradually losing all its strongholds in Somalia’s south. Two autonomous regions in the country’s north – Puntland and Somaliland – are also out of the TFG’s control.
The TFG was forced out of the capital Mogadishu in June, and is presently based in Baidoa. The ICU is in control of most of Somalia’s south, including the capital. It has announced it will apply Islamic Shari’a law in all the cities under its rule.
Negotiations between the ICU and the TFG have virtually come to a standstill following an attempt on the life of President ‘Abdallah Yusuf Ahmed last week.
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