The Somali terrorist group Al-Shabaab issued a stern warning Sunday against the neighboring country of Kenya, following the deaths of 115 civilians and soldiers in several days of fighting in Mogadishu. The battles reflect a renewed push by the Transitional Federal Government [TFG] and African peacekeeping force ANISOM to overthrow al-Shabaab, as political wrangling threatens the future of the relatively moderate TFG.
"Previous warnings to Kenya were nothing compared to this one. We are going to retaliate against it (Kenya) harshly," al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage told a news conference. "Kenya has long been working to undermine the existence of the Islamic sharia in Somalia… We shall no longer tolerate the constant aggression and ill acts of Kenya against our Muslim society. Kenya will bear responsibility for the consequences of the continuing aggression."
The tiny territory held by the TFG is surrounded by al-Shabaab, the dominant force in nearly all of southern and central Somalia. Previous offensives have faltered over disagreements between African Union and anti-Shabaab forces, but the new offensive by the 17,000-strong combined force of the TFG and AMISOM is set to put up a strong fight against the Islamist militia. "The operations we started will continue until we defeat the enemy and we will not repeat the past mistakes in which territories reclaimed by our armed forces were abandoned," said Somali Defense Minister Abdihakim Fiqi.
Burundi and Kenya, whose forces make up a large percentage of the AMISOM troops, have also responded with a pledge to "crush" al-Shabaab forces. Colonel Bierk, spokesman for Burundian troops in Somalia, claimed to have dislodged al-Shabaab from its main military base in Mogadishu. He also said that the fighting in recent days had killed 70 al-Shabaab fighters while losing seven of his own troops. Kenya pledged to beef up troops along the border, especially in the besieged Kenyan town of Mandera, and warned of attacks in shopping centers. "We have taken measures to provide adequate security," said Public Commissioner Mathew Iteere.
The offensive comes four months before the transitional government's mandate is due to expire. That will leave the TFG with the right to hold parliament, but with as much political legitimacy as the other militias and autonomous regions in the fractured nation.