MOGADISHU: A spokesman for the Somali militant group Al-Shabaab said Tuesday that Kenya’s prime minister recently visited Israel to seek assistance in “destroying Muslim people and their religion.
”Sheikh Ali Mohammad Rage also warned Kenya that it still has a chance to withdraw its forces from neighboring Somalia because “things have not begun in earnest,” a likely reference to threats to carry out terror attacks in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.
The office of Kenya’s prime minister said Monday that Kenya received the backing of Israeli leaders to help Kenya fight what it called “fundamentalist elements.” Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga visited Israel Sunday and Monday and sought help building the capacity of his country’s security forces.
Kenyan troops last month moved into Somalia to fight Al-Shabaab militants who in return promised reprisal terror attacks in Nairobi.
“We tell Kenya that things have not began in earnest yet and it is now a month on. You still have a chance to go back to your border,” Rage said.
Kenya said in a statement that Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised the East African nation help in securing its borders with Somalia.
A statement from the Odinga’s office said Netanyahu promised to help build “a coalition against fundamentalism,” bringing together the countries Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Tanzania. Kenya said that Peres said Israel was ready to make “everything available to Kenya” for internal security.
The Israeli government did not confirm any of statements made by Odinga’s office. Israel said the meetings were a continuation of the deepening of Israel’s relations with African countries.
Israeli security forces are among the best in the world in dealing with terror threats. But Al-Shabaab could view Kenya’s request to the Israelis as a provocation.
In 2002 militants bombed an Israeli-owned luxury hotel on Kenya’s coast near the city of Mombasa, killing 13 people. The militants also tried to shoot down an Israeli airliner at the same time.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 16, 2011, on page 9.