Somalia's Islamist al-Shabaab rebels called on Thursday for supporters in Kenya to carry out a major strike in retaliation for a 12-day military incursion by East Africa's superpower.
Kenya has sent soldiers and heavy weapons into southern Somalia to crush the al-Qaeda-linked militants Nairobi blames for a string of kidnappings on Kenyan soil and frequent border incursions. Kenyan units have advanced on several fronts with Somali government troops and allied militias towards al-Shabaab strongholds and a fighter jet bombed its port city of Kismayu on Sunday.
"The time to ask Kenya to stop war has passed. The only option is to fight them. Kenya, you have started the war and so you have to face the consequences," Sheikh Muktar Robow Abu Mansoor, a top al-Shabaab official, told a demonstration.
Victims on both sides
Kenyan military spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir said their forces clashed with al-Shabaab fighters in southern Somalia, east of a town called Tabda, on Thursday and two wounded soldiers had been evacuated. "There was action today between al-Shabaab and our forces. We managed to kill nine al- Shabaab," he said.
An al-Shabaab spokesman, Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, said his fighters had ambushed four Kenyan military vehicles near Tabda. He did not give details of any casualties. The al-Shabaab official urged sympathisers in Kenya to shun the grenade attacks that hit the capital Nairobi on Monday, killing one person and wounding 29. Police said on Thursday that all but six of the victims had now returned home.
"The Kenyan Mujahideen who were trained by Osama in Afghanistan, stop throwing grenades at buses. We need a huge blow against Kenya. Hand grenades hurled can harm them but we want huge blasts," he told hundreds of people gathered in Elasha, near Mogadishu. Residents said al-Shabaab had ordered them on Wednesday to close businesses and attend the anti-Kenyan rallies.
The two grenade attacks on a bar and a bus terminus in downtown Nairobi have spooked Kenyans and security has been beefed up in the capital at hotels, government buildings, restaurants, bars and shopping malls. The blasts came two days after the US embassy warned of an imminent attack. A Kenyan man has pleaded guilty to one of the attacks and being a member of al-Shabaab.
Kenya's Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere said two more people had been arrested over the attacks and were due to appear in court this week. He said the man who pleaded guilty went to Somalia in February and returned to Kenya in August.