Source: BBC News
A key town in southern Somalia has been captured by Kenyan troops and government forces from Islamist militants, Kenya’s army says.
Badhadhe – some 180km south of Kismayo – fell after heavy fighting, according to local residents.
The fall of the inland town is a major loss to al-Shabab because it cuts off their main supply line from the sea, a Kenyan army spokesman told the BBC.
Kenyan troops entered Somalia in October.
Observers say the capture of Badhadhe on Thursday is the most significant gain of territory so far by Kenya – and of political importance on the day of William Hague’s visit to Somalia, the first by British foreign secretary for 20 years.
« To al-Shabab, it is a blow because we have almost divided the left arm from the right arm, » Kenya’s Major Emmanuel Chirchir told the BBC.
Eye on Kismayo?
He said al-Shabab will also no longer have access to training grounds in the centre of the country.
The BBC’s Caroline Karobia in Nairobi says sources in Badhadhe say pro-Somali government militia helped the Kenya army in what was a protracted fight for the town.
Our correspondent says there is a widespread belief that Kenya’s main goal is to capture the major port town of Kismayo – an al-Shabab stronghold.
Kenya crossed over the border in pursuit of al-Shabab members it blames for a series of kidnappings in Kenyan territory.
Al-Shabab, which has links to al-Qaeda, denies any involvement.
Our correspondent says progress towards Kismayo has been slow – partly because the army vehicles got stuck in the mud for weeks after heavy rains.
Al-Shabab has been pushed out of the capital, Mogadishu, and Ethiopia troops have also entered Somali territory to move against the Islamist militants, who nevertheless still control large parts of southern and central Somalia.
On Thursday, Mr Hague said the fight against al-Shabab needs to be stepped up.
His visit signals the start of a major diplomatic push to restore stability in Somalia.
On 23 February, the British government is holding a conference in London to try to find a political solution, and tackle piracy and extremism.