African Union forces have taken control of parts of Kismayo, Somalia, the last key stronghold of al-Qaida affiliate al-Shabaab, a military official said Friday.
Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti, commander of troops of the African Mission in Somalia, said operations were under way to "neutralize specific al-Shabaab targets," the Shabelle Media Network reported.
"AMISOM appeals for all in Kismayo to remain calm," Gutti said. "AMISOM's intent is to liberate the people of Kismayo to enable them to lead their lives in peace, stability and security."
The peacekeeping forces are trying to gain control of the war-torn country for newly elected U.N.-backed president, Hassan Sheik Mohamud.
Col. Cyrus Oguna, a Kenyan military spokesman, told the BBC the joint operation of Kenyan troops and Somali government forces was "basically amphibious."
"We cannot give casualty figures at the moment," Oguna said. "The damage has not been assessed, but I can tell you our forces are already in Kismayo."
Gutti urged militant fighters in Kismayo to surrender, Shabelle said.
"In recent days and weeks, a number of them have contacted AMISOM indicating their wish to cease fighting," he said. "We have assured them of their safety if they give themselves up peacefully to our forces."e t