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Somalia: Al Shabaab militants abandon Kismayo after African Union attack

Kismayo had been a stronghold for Al Shabaab, and an important source of funding for the Islamist group since it was forced out of Mogadishu.

Somalia afgoye african union 2012 5 25Enlarge
A field commander serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) walks in front of an armored personnel carrier on May 22, 2012, during a joint AMISOM and Somali National Army (SNA) operation to seize and liberate territory from the Al Qaeda-affiliated extremist group Al Shabaab in the Afgoye region west of Mogadishu. (Stuart Price/AFP/Getty Images)

Al Shabaab militants have abandoned Kismayo in southern Somalia, a day after African Union troops launched an attack on the key port city.

The Associated Press reported that Kismayo residents awoke Saturday to find the Islamist militants had abandoned police and government headquarters in the city center, sparking a looting spree.

More from GlobalPost: Somalia gears up for final offensive against Al Shabaab

Kenyan and Somali forces with the AU mission on Friday launched a beach assault on Kismayo, while inland troops pushed toward the city, the BBC reported.

Kismayo has been a stronghold for Al Shabaab, and an important source of funding for the group since it was forced out of Mogadishu in August 2011, the AP said.

The BBC said Al Shabaab had used Kismayo's port to bring in weapons. The group had funded itself largely by charging taxes on goods arriving at the port.

Al Shabaab announced it was leaving Kismayo via its Twitter account:

More from GlobalPost: In-depth: Africa becomes new frontline against Al Qaeda

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/somalia/120929/somalia-al-shabaab-militants-abandon-kismayo-after-au-attack