Somalia's al-Shabab extremists have renewed their threat to launch attacks on Kenya. This time, the threat follows allegations the Kenyan government is recruiting ethnic Somalis in northeastern Kenya to fight al-Shabab in Somalia.
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Ethnic Somalis in the Kenyan town of Garissa are telling reporters Kenyan authorities have recruited as many as 200 teen-aged boys there in recent weeks. The boys are allegedly being trained at a military camp in the coastal city of Mombasa.
Garissa resident Haile Mohamed Yusuf says her 18-year-old son believed he was going to be trained to join the Kenyan police when he left Garissa for Mombasa. She says there has been no word from her son since.
In neighboring Somalia, al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militants, who control vast areas of the country, are using such reports to denounce what they say is a secret campaign by the Kenyan government to send Somali-Kenyan soldiers to Somalia to fight against them.
Al-Shabab's chief spokesman, Ali Mohamud Rage, alleges recruits are being trained in preparation for an assault on al-Shabab controlled towns in Middle and Lower Juba regions.
Rage says if the Kenyan government does not cease recruiting and training ethnic Somalis, al-Shabab will begin attacking inside Kenya.
Al-Shabab, listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, is currently battling to overthrow the Western-backed government in the Somali capital Mogadishu and to gain full control of the country. Since it emerged in 2004, the group has been strengthening ties with al-Qaida and affiliated groups.
For months, Kenya's under-developed northeastern region, inhabited mostly by ethnic Somalis, had been the focus of efforts by al-Shabab to influence and recruit young men from Kenya.
In August, al-Shabab fighters stormed a school in the town of Mandera, ordering students to quit school and join the war against the "enemies of Islam" in Somalia. Some Kenyans have testified that they were offered as much as $650 from al-Shabab militants to go fight in Somalia.
The Kenyan government has not commented on allegations it is recruiting young men in the area. But Kenya's chief police spokesman, Eric Kiraithe, tells VOA that the country's security forces are prepared to deal with any al-Shabab threat.
"We have not seen the statement and certainly the matter will be investigated," said Kiraithe. [But] we have the capacity to protect the republic [in] every possible way."
In July, Somalia's embattled government appealed for neighboring countries, including Kenya, to send troops to Somalia to intervene in the conflict. Al-Shabab warned Kenya that if any Kenyan soldier is found across the border in Somalia, the group would send suicide bombers into the Kenyan capital.