Nairobi - Kenyan and Somali government troops captured Somalia's southern port of Kismayu, the al-Shabaab militant group's last major bastion, the Kenyan military said on Friday, but residents said there was fighting just outside the city.
"[A report that] Kismayu fell today to KDF [Kenyan Defence Forces] and TFG [Somali government troops] forces is indeed very true," military spokesperson Cyrus Oguna told Kenya's Citizen television.
Along with forces from Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti, Kenyan troops have been battling the group, which has links to al-Qaeda, in an African Union peacekeeping force mandated with wiping out the rebels from their strongholds.
"So far there has been minimal resistance," said Oguna, adding that the troops had entered Kismayu early on Friday.
In Kismayu, residents said they could hear fighting near the beach, which is about 4km outside the city.
"Now we hear shelling from the ships and the [rebels] are responding with anti-aircraft guns," Ismail Suglow said on Friday.
"We saw seven ships early in the morning and now their firing looks like lightning and thunder. Al-Shabaab have gone toward the beach. Many residents have taken their guns. The ships poured many AU troops on the beach," he added.
Al-Shabaab, which was driven out of the capital Mogadishu last August and is fighting AU forces in other parts of the country, said there was heavy fighting going on between the two sides.
"Ships have brought Kenyan troops on our Kismayu beach last night. Fierce fighting between us and them is going on now," said Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al-Shabaab's spokesperson for military operations on Friday.
Kenya sent its troops into Somalia last October after the rebels were blamed for a series of raids on Kenyan soil targeting its security forces as well as Western tourists.
Somalia has made progress in the past year in battling the Islamist militants, who have wanted to impose their strict interpretation of Sharia law across the country since taking control of large swathes of south-central Somalia from 2007.