Al-Shabaab fighters have paraded in the streets of one of their strongholds on the Somali coast and vowed to repulse the Kenyan incursion.
The show of force in Marka town, 500 kilometres north of Kismayu, involved a display of speed boats mounted with machine guns with which they hope to face the Kenya Navy.
Also on display were the four-wheel pick-ups mounted with machine guns, known as technicals.
Residents of the town said they were asked to come out on the streets and beach to witness the parade.
Marka is about 100 kilometres south of the capital, Mogadishu, from where the rebels have been largely routed by African Union forces.
Kenyan and Somali government troops are approaching Kismayu from the south after taking a string of towns on the coastline.
The Tuesday display came as Kenya’s military incursion inside Somalia was debated in the UK parliament.
Using loud speakers on minibuses, the militants drove around calling on the inhabitants of Marka, the capital of Lower Shabelle region, to come out and watch a big military display.
Along the coastline, speedboats mounted with automatic machine guns, according to witnesses, cut across the water in formation.
An Al-Shabaab officials who addressed the crowd vowed to defend their territory if attacked from the sea, witnesses said.
The militants appeared to be reacting to indications that the Kenya Navy, that already controls the Indian Ocean waters in territory the land forces have taken, was preparing to launch offensives against them in their strongholds including the main port town of Kismayu.
The militiamen zoomed around the streets of Marka in technicals bearing masked fighters wielding assault rifles and escorted by others on motorbikes.
“Our forces are ready to defeat any aggressor,” an Al-Shabaab official whose name was not given was quoted as telling the crowd.
According to some reports, the residents who had gathered to watch the parade fled when a motorcycle rider lost control and ploughed into the crowd killing a young boy and injuring several other people.