Civilians trapped by fighting in Mogadishu made the most of a lull on Saturday to flee, even as Kenyan forces in southern Somalia continued their slow advance and Shebab Islamists vowed retaliation.
"In the southern sector we have occupied Ras Kamboni and forward elements have advanced beyond Oddo, Kenya army spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir told AFP, referring to a village some 25 kilometres (16 miles) north of Ras Kamboni, which lies almost on the Kenyan border.
"We are looking at moving towards Kismayo," he said, adding the troops were advancing in a three-pronged apprcoach but refusing to give any time frame for wresting the port city, which lies some 250 kilometres from Kenya's border, from the Shebab.
"The Islamic regions in Somalia are all on high alert to prepare for the open war that is our response to the incursions by some neighbouring countries who are taking part in the global Christian invasion against Somalia," Shebab overall leader Mohamed Abdi Godane said in a recorded message.
Another part of the Kenyan contingent is still in Qoqani, around 100 kilometres inside Somalia with the intention of advancing on Afmadow. Somali government troops and a militia allied to Kenya are in Hayo, a village some 20 kilometres outside Qoqani on the road to Afmadow.
Yet more troops deployed further to the north have been blocked by heavy rain at a point 35 kilometres inside Somalia.
The Kenyan troops have not so far met "any major resistance" from the Shebab, Chirchir said.
The Somali capital was quiet Saturday after two days of intense clashes pitting African Union forces supporting the Somali government against Shebab fighters.
"There is no fighting in Mogadishu. It is quiet," Ali Muse, the head of the city's ambulance service told AFP.
"Deynile district is empty. There is no fighting but you can still hear random machine gun fire and hundreds of people are streaming out of town with their children on their backs," Ibrahim Deynile, a witness told AFP.
Adan Mohamed, a father of three, said he had fled Deynile overnight.
"I walked for several hours with my wife and children last night. I?m in Seypiano now," he said, referring to a building in another part of the capital. Most of Deynile's residents have fled in the past two days," he said.
"There was heavy fighting last night but the situation is calm this morning," confirmed Ahmed Soyal, a Somali government security official.
"The Shebab attacked our men several times during the night but were pushed back," a senior officer told AFP Saturday, adding that his men had found the bodies of five Shebab fighters killed overnight.
A Burundian officer within the AMISOM force confirmed the clashes overnight.
The latest fighting in Deynile started before dawn on Thursday when AMISOM troops tried to flush out pockets of Shebab fighters.
Late Thursday the Shebab said they had killed "more than 70" Burundian soldiers.
The Burundian army Friday officially admitted it had lost six men, but the Burundian officer in AMISOM said the truth lay somewhere between the two figures, confirming that "some 30" men had been lost Thursday in Deynile.
"Our men wanted to occupy a zone the Shebab had pulled out of. They advanced without cover and fell into a trap," he told AFP, asking not to be named.
The Shebab, who had "undertaken a tactical withdrawal" cut off their rear "and massacred them."
Shebab leader Godane in his recorded message congratulated his fighters for inflicting such heavy losses on the Burundians.
"Thanks be to Allah for the heavy losses that mujahideen fighters inflicted on the enemy in Deynile district," he said.
Source: AFP Global Edition