/ 11 June 2009

Somali Islamist threatens ‘invasion’ of Kenya

A senior member of Somalia’s Islamist insurgent movement al-Shabaab threatened on Thursday to ”invade” Kenya if it did not reduce its military presence on the Somali border.

The rebels, who control parts of south Somalia close to Kenya, have long resented Nairobi’s support for the Western-backed government in Mogadishu.

Kenya, fearful of flows of people and arms across its border and mindful of past attacks in the region planned from Somalia, keeps a heavy military presence in its remote north.

”We shall invade Kenya if it does not stop its military movement along the Somalia-Kenya border towns,” said Sheikh Abdiqani Mohamed, vice-governor of the southern port of Kismayu which al-Shabaab captured in mid-2008.

”We cannot bear the aggression of Kenya. What is its military doing near Dhobley and our other towns in southern Somalia?” he said.

”If Kenya does not stop this, our troops will cross the border and fight inside their country.”

Al-Shabaab controls some areas of Mogadishu and is resisting a push by President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed’s security forces to drive its fighters out of town. In the provinces, it is fighting a pro-government moderate Islamist militia, with towns and territory often changing hands.

Kenya’s government has tried to reassure citizens and expatriates amid fears of attacks in Nairobi and security warnings circulating among foreign diplomats.

Noting the deteriorating security situation in Somalia, Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said on Wednesday that diplomatic police were on ”high alert”.

Western security services say al-Shabaab is a Somali proxy for Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network. That view was echoed by a former rebel hardliner who defected a few weeks ago and took his fighters over the government side.

”Osama bin Laden wants to make his biggest base in Somalia,” Sheikh Yusuf Mohamed Siad, known as ”Inda’ade” or ”white eyes”, told Reuters recently.

”He believes his criminal organisation can sweep African regimes and take over Africa as part of their greater ambition.”

He said al-Qaeda’s plan was to dominate the seas.

”Al-Qaeda plans to cut off the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden which is a main route connecting all continents together. And if they achieve that, it is big threat to global security … If al-Qaeda gets a base here, it will be a disaster.

”This issue needs an international solution, and the world and Somalia must fight on one front.” – Reuters