Somalia’s Islamist militia al-Shabaab vowed to broaden its war to neighboring Kenya and Uganda in retaliation for the deployment of those countries’ forces in the Horn of Africa nation.
“We will fight a fight to the death and we are committed to shifting the war into Kenya and Uganda,” Sheikh Fuad Mohamed Khalaf said in a recording broadcast on al-Shabaab’s Radio Andulus today in the capital, Mogadishu. The almost seven-minute audio recording was also posted on pro-al-Shabaab websites, including Somalimemo and Calamada. The U.S. “cannot stop us from reaching our goals,” Khalaf said.
Kenyan sent troops to Somalia in October 2011 after accusing al-Shabaab of killing and abducting tourists and aid workers. Uganda has the biggest contingent of troops in the 22,126-strong African Union peacekeeping mission that is battling the insurgents, which are trying to topple the government and create a state ruled by Shariah, or Islamic law.
The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi is taking additional security steps and may reduce its staff in the country as it continues to receive information about possible threats to “western interests” in Kenya, the State Department said on May 18.
The U.S. last year sent about two dozen trainers and advisers to Somalia to help coordinate efforts to end the threat of al-Shabaab, the Washington Post reported, citing three unidentified U.S. military officials. It was first time the U.S. deployed regular troops in the country since 18 Americans were killed in a 1993 mission in Mogadishu, the newspaper said.
Khalaf, born between 1979 and 1982, has helped direct al-Shabaab attacks in Somalia and raised funds for the militia, according to the U.S. State Department. The U.S. government has offered a reward of as much as $5 million for information leading to the location of Khalaf, who is a dual Somali and Swedish national, according to the State Department’s website.
Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for an attack on the Westgate mall in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, in September in which at least 67 people were killed. The group also said it carried out the bombings in July 2010 at two venues in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, where soccer fans had gathered to watch the final World Cup match on television, leaving 76 people dead.
African Union forces this week carried out two air strikes on the southern Somali town of Jilib, killing at least 50 militants, according to the mission’s Twitter account.
The African Union Mission in Somalia, also known as Amisom, comprises 6,223 Ugandan troops, 3,664 Kenyan, 5,432 Burundian, 4,395 Ethiopian, 1,000 Djiboutian and 850 soldiers from Sierra Leone.
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