Kenya says AU forces storm Somali rebel city of Kismayo
African Union (AU) forces have launched a beach assault and taken control of parts of Kismayo, the last major Islamist militant bastion in southern Somalia, Kenya's military says.
The port city has been a stronghold of the al-Qaeda-aligned group al-Shabab.
Al-Shabab spokesmen told news agencies that fierce fighting was now under way.
The Kenyan troops are part of the AU's Amisom force, which is trying to wrest control of the country for the newly elected UN-backed president.
Kenyan military spokesman Cyrus Oguna confirmed to the BBC that parts of Kismayo had been captured and the rest was expected to fall soon.
Mr Oguna said the joint operation of Kenyan Defence Forces and Somali government troops had begun at 02:00 local time (23:00 GMT Thursday) and was "basically amphibious".
Mr Oguna said: "We cannot give casualty figures at the moment, the damage has not been assessed, but I can tell you our forces are already in Kismayo."
Kismayo was vital to al-Shabab. It was through the port that the militants, who have sworn their allegiance to al-Qaeda, imported their arms and ammunition.
At least as important were the taxes that al-Shabab were able to levy on the city's traders.
Once Kismayo is fully in African Union hands it will be a major blow to al-Shabab. But the militants still hold large areas of southern and central Somalia.
They are not yet a spent force and are likely to re-group their forces and strike back with suicide bombings and guerrilla attacks.
He told the BBC: "There are some parts that still will be under the control of al-Shabab because we only got there a couple of hours ago, and Kismayo is a big city."
Posted by: tipper