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Kenyan troops to leave the Somali town of Kismayo

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Most Kenyan troops will soon leave the port city of Kismayo which they took control of more than a year ago after ousting al-Qaida-linked militants, a Kenyan military spokesman said Friday

The Kenyan army command will leave Kismayo "soon," said Col. Willy Wesonga. Sierra Leonean troops will replace Kenyan forces that will move to the Gedo region, he said. Only small Kenyan units will remain in Kismayo, Wesonga said.

The announcement comes as Kenyan forces are accused of misconduct including of backing one Somali militia against others in Kismayo, an issue that led the Mogadishu-based Somali government to demand a more neutral force in Kismayo.

Kenya is one of several African countries that have troops in Somalia, as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia or AMISOM, which is backing the country's weak government against an onslaught by the Islamic extremists of al-Shababs.

Kenyan troops in Kismayo were accused mid-last year of backing one militia, the Raskamboni brigade, against others in deadly fighting there. The Raskamboni brigade —which helped Kenya to push al-Shabab militants out of Kismayo in 2012 —is led by Ahmed Madobe, a Somali warlord who has established a local administration in Kismayo that is independent of the central government. Madobe is a key power broker around Kismayo, although he is not backed by the federal government in Mogadishu.

Kismayo is important for Kenya, which seeks a friendly buffer zone near its border with Somalia — one of the main reasons it sent troops to Somalia in late 2011 to fight the rebels of al-Shabab, Islamic extremists linked to al-Qaida. The rival militias appear to be interested in the economic engine of Kismayo. Its port generates a reliably large income and has been the export point of Somali-made charcoal that the United Nations has deemed illegal.

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