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(Updates with comment by al-Shabaab official in first paragraph.)
Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Kenya vowed to keep its forces in Somalia until the threat posed by al-Shabaab to regional security has been removed, as the al-Qaeda-linked militants said it would retaliate against the neighboring country.
The “strategy is to destroy al-Shabaab’s network within the shortest time possible,” Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua told reporters today in Nairobi. “Kenya has no plans or intentions to stay in Somalia an hour beyond necessary.”
Somalia’s government said yesterday its sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected after Kenya began an incursion on Oct. 16 to combat al-Shabaab, accusing the militia of kidnapping tourists and aid workers in Kenya. Somalia “doesn’t mind” Kenyan forces fighting alongside its people in a campaign that was sanctioned by the African Union, Mutua said.
Al-Shabaab has waged a four-year campaign against Somalia’s United Nations-backed government and controls most of central and southern Somalia. The militant group, which has denied any involvement in the kidnappings, today called on its supporters to “inflict major losses” on Kenya. Two hand-grenade attacks in Nairobi earlier this week failed to “inflict much damage,” Sheikh Muktar Robow Ali Abu Mansor, a spokesman for the militia, told protesters in Almada on the outskirts of Mogadishu today.
“Stop launching hand grenades because it is only stimulating the enemy,” Mansor said in remarks broadcast on Radio Shabelle, a Mogadishu-based radio station. “Make big plans and bite them hard.”
At least one person died and 28 people were injured in the attacks that may have been inspired, though not carried out by al-Shabaab, Mutua said yesterday. Kenyan police arrested three people in connection with the attacks, Commissioner Mathew Iteere said at the briefing today. One of those detained had travelled to Somalia this year, Iteere said.
A bus carrying government officials was attacked today while travelling near the Kenya-Somali border town of Mandera, Kenya’s police said in an e-mailed statement. At least four people died in the incident, Leo Nyongesa, head of police in the North Eastern Province, said in a phone interview.
Al-Shabaab has not communicated with the Kenyan government and the east African nation will not negotiate with the militia group, Mutua said. CNN reported earlier today that a Kenyan government official it didn’t identify said al-Shabaab leaders are seeking negotiations.
“We are at war with a terror organization,” Mutua said. “Al-Shabaab is a terror organization that has made it impossible for there to be peace and stability in Somalia.”
Somalia has been engulfed by civil war for two decades and hasn’t had a functioning government since the 1991 overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.
--With assistance from Johnstone Ole Turana in Nairobi and Hamsa Omar in Mogadishu. Editors: Paul Richardson, Ana Monteiro.
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