Somalia’s Al Qaeda-linked Shebab on Wednesday issued a stark warning to Kenyan voters ahead of next week’s general elections, threatening them with a “long, gruesome war”.
The Islamist group argued Kenya was safer when it ruled bordering southern Somalia but stopped short of saying who Kenyan voters should choose in the March 4 polls.
Kenyan troops, who have since become part of the 17,000-strong African Union force fighting the Shebab, invaded southern Somalia in October 2011 to attack the insurgents’ bases after a string of killings and kidnappings inside Kenya.
“If you put a government in place, then be willing to endure the consequences of your actions, for you will bear the full brunt of its follies,” the Shebab said in a statement.
Kenya holds presidential, parliamentary, gubernatorial, senatorial and local elections on March 4. None of the leading candidates have hinted they would pull troops out of Somalia.
“The changing political climate in your country may now hold the key to a better future, a future that involves less bloodshed,” they continued, warning they would “do whatever it takes to defend our lands from invasion.”
Since Kenya’s invasion attackers have set off bombs and hurled grenades in the capital Nairobi, while gunmen have killed both security officials and civilians along Kenya’s restive border with Somalia.
The attacks are regularly blamed on Shebab insurgents or their sympathisers, although the extremists do not specifically claim the killings.
“Remember, we are mujahedeen who celebrate the martyrdom of our loved ones; you are a public that laments the loss of your loved ones,” the Shebab added.
“We are men who have nothing to lose and everything to gain by fighting against you.”
The Shebab have lost a swathe of territory including several key towns in recent months as they retreat ahead of AU forces, Somali troops and Ethiopian soldiers.