Fleeing al-Shabab fighters won't leave their guns behind

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Members of al-Shabab ride on a pick-up truck after attending Eid al-Adha prayers north of Mogadishu Photo: Feisal Omar / Reuters

We still cannot be sure how much of the Somalian port of Kismayo has fallen to Kenyan and African Union (AU) forces, but it does appear that al Shabab is, at the very least, on the brink of losing its greatest stronghold.

For almost a year, Kenyan and international soldiers have been trying to wrestle parts of lawless Somalia from the hands of the militant group which controls much of the rural south.

Today, on the beaches of the seaside city, they landed right at al Shabab’s front door after what appears to have been an extraordinary amphibious assault.

The mission is being hailed as a rare “African solution to an African problem”.

Al-Shabab plays the role of local government in southern Somalia. Here, its members distribute food aid at a refugee camp Credit: REUTERS/Feisal Omar

The fall of Kismayo would be more than just a territorial blow to al Shabab. The ‘taxes’ gathered at the port help to pay for the bombs and weapons that create so much terror across Somalia.

It is also a haven for foreigners who have travelled the world to fight alongside the al-Qaeda-aligned terrorists.

Earlier this year, one former Shabaab militant told me that he knew of “six or seven” Britons fighting for the group in the Kismayo region.

Kenyan officials claim that al-Shabab fighters are fleeing. But beware: even if those reports are true, they are leaving with their guns and every ounce of their militancy.

They will certainly attempt to fight back.