Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta vows war on al-Shabab

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Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has said “we will not flinch” in the war against Islamist group al-Shabab after a massacre near the Somali border.

“This is a war against Kenya and Kenyans,” he said on national TV. “It is a war that every one of us must fight.”

Kenya’s police chief, David Kimayo, and Interior Minister Ole Lenku are being replaced.

Al-Shabab earlier killed 36 quarry workers in the Mandera region.

The group attacked the workers around midnight on Monday as they slept in tents at the quarry in Kormey, 15km (nine miles) from the north-eastern town of Mandera.

The non-Muslim workers were shot dead after being separated from the Muslims.

A driver who visited the scene of the attack, Ali Sheikh Yusuf, told the BBC most of the victims appeared to have been lined up, and shot in the head, at close range.

He said four were beheaded inside their tents, while three appeared to have escaped to Mandera town.



Al-Shabab attacks put Kenyan government under pressure

Demonstrations in Kenya to call for greater security following a string of attacks by al-Shabab, 26 November 2014Increasing al-Shabab attacks have led to demonstrations over lack of security in Kenya

By attacking a bar in Wajir, a town used by the Kenyan military, and by singling out non-Muslim victims in two brutal attacks near the border with Somalia, al-Shabab is hoping to send a stark and chilling message, both to the Kenyan government and the public.

Al-Shabab labels the presence of Kenyan troops, part of a wider African Union force in Somalia, an “occupation”.

And it claims the recent air strikes by Kenyan fighter jets on al-Shabab targets in Somali territory amount to “aggression” and have caused “atrocities” among the civilian population.

The Somali-based group, which much of the world labels terrorists, wants to try to create the impression that the attacks are a direct consequence of the presence of Kenyan troops, and Kenyan air strikes, in Somalia.

The Kenyan government has accused al-Shabab of trying to turn its campaign of violence into one based on religious lines. In a statement following the latest attacks it simply described the attackers as “heavily armed bandits”.

Red Cross workers at the scene of al-Shabab killings at a quarry in north-eastern KenyaSomali militants aim to send a stark message by launching brutal attacks in the north-east of Kenya

Before Kenyan troops were deployed in Somalia in October 2011, there were several attacks in the Mandera region, and other parts of northern Kenya, attributed to al-Shabab.

But in the past few days the audacity and brutality of the attacks there has escalated, and so too has the pressure on the Kenyan authorities to prevent further violence.

Kenya has so far maintained an uncompromisingly hard line against al-Shabab. The government claims the military killed around 100 al-Shabab militants in an operation in Somalia in response to last week’s bus attack in Mandera which left 28 people dead.

Aftermath of attack by al-Shabab on a bus in Kenya, 22 November 2014 Non-Muslims were also singled out in an attack on a bus on 22 November

And in the face of such violence, some people in Kenya will support their government’s position.

But there are inevitably uncomfortable questions about the effectiveness of the Kenyan military operation in Somalia, and the effect it is having on Kenya’s own internal security.


Al-Shabab – a potent threat in East Africa

What’s more, the situation in the corner of north-eastern Kenya, near both the Ethiopian and Somali borders, is not a simple battle between Islamist militants and the Kenyan security services.

There are also clan-based allegiances within the majority Somali-Kenyan population there, on either side of the Somali-Kenyan border.

It is possible that al-Shabab is successfully exploiting tensions and loyalties amongst other militant groups in the region.



Kasmaal Information Center/London/UK