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Al-Shabab Denies Threatening Attack against Kenya

Recently trained Shebab fighters stand during military exercise in northern Mogadishu’s Suqaholaha neighborhood, Somalia (file photo)

The downloadable song opens with the sound of gunfire, followed by a voice singing in Swahili that the jihadists will enter the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

A spokesman for the Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabab on Friday denied issuing a new threat against Kenya, saying that a recording posted online is a fake. Tensions in Kenya has increased. Kenya is reported to have detained as many as 2000 people over the past several days in a crackdown against illegal immigrants, mostly Somalis.

The downloadable song opens with the sound of gunfire, followed by a voice singing in Swahili that the jihadists will enter the Kenyan capital Nairobi. The vocalist later claims that the militants will bomb and kill the Kenyan people, and finishes by declaring allegiance to al-Shabab's reclusive leader.

The audio was posted by a site administrator for an Islamic website which frequently puts up statements from the Islamist rebels. The administrator attributed the file to al-Shabab, saying it was recorded in response to the treatment given to a visiting radical cleric and those who protested for his release.

Sheikh Ali Muhamud Rage, the spokesperson for al-Shabab, told Reuters that the audio was "fake" and denied the issuing a new threat against Kenya.

A protest in Nairobi over the detention of Jamaican-born preacher Abdullah al-Faisal turned bloody on Friday after Kenyan riot police - joined by Kenyan civilians - attempted to beat back the Muslim protesters. At least four protesters were killed as police fired into the crowd after tear gas failed to disband the stone throwing youths.

Kenyan Internal Security Minister George Saitoti defended the police response, saying that al-Shabab sympathizers were among the rioters. Several of the protesters were waving black flags similar to that used by the Islamist group. One police officer received a bullet wound, allegedly fired by one of the Muslim youth.

Following the allegation, Rage praised the street protest outside a downtown mosque, but denied that his group was at all involved in the demonstration.

Police-backed Kenyan anti-terror units this week have rounded up hundreds of foreigners suspected of residing illegally inside the country. Most of those detained were Somali nationals, including several parliament members within the embattled Western-backed Mogadishu government.

A government spokesperson said 2,000 were caught in the cross-country raids, but the Kenyan police put the number at 1,200. Two hundred have been charged in court for not carrying the proper documents.

Rashid Abdi, a Somalia analyst for the International Crisis Group, says that independently verifying the authenticity of the online tape would be very difficult. But he thinks that the confusion over the ominous song is most likely a reflection of a power struggle within al-Shabab's leadership.

"The Somali nationalists within al-Shabab may have ambitions which are more local," said Abdi. "The foreign jihadists want to escalate this, they want to globalize this, and they want to basically start things up in Kenya."

Al-Shabab is widely believed to be responsible for the deadly December bombing of a graduation ceremony which sparked rare public demonstrations against the group in the capital city. Rage has denied that the insurgent group was responsible for the attack.

The Somali rebels have previously issued warnings against Kenya, as well as Burundi and Uganda, for supporting the Mogadishu government. These threats have not yet been carried out.

Kenyan authorities told a court on Thursday that Faisal - who was convicted in Britain of hate speech against non-Muslims - had been deported. But the immigration minister later denied this report, putting the status of the controversial cleric in question once more.