Shabaab warns vil­lagers

. . . Boko Haram leader denies death ‘ru­mour’

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

NAIROBI — Dozens of sus­pected So­mali al-shabaab fight­ers swept into a Kenyan vil­lage and lec­tured lo­cals for at least two hours be­fore dis­ap­pear­ing into a nearby for­est with­out at­tack­ing any­one, po­lice and res­i­dents said on Sun­day.

The al-qaeda-linked al-shabaab has made a se­ries of deadly raids in Kenya since Kenyan troops first en­tered So­ma­lia to fight them in 2011.

It has said it will con­tinue un­til Nairobi with­draws the troops, now part of an African Union peace­keep­ing force.

Res­i­dents of Ba­suba vil­lage in the coastal re­gion of Lamu said the mil­i­tants, num­ber­ing over 50, warned them against board­ing any po­lice or mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles be­cause they tar­geted them for at­tacks.

“They had their faces masked and wore jun­gle at­tire. They told us if we boarded those ve­hi­cles we would die with the of­fi­cers,” one res­i­dent told Reuters.

The vil­lager said among the mil­i­tants were two men and two women who ap­peared to be of Cau­casian ori­gin. They ar­rived at 5am on Satur­day. “They also warned that if we told po­lice about their pres­ence and visit, they would come back and deal with us,” said the wit­ness, adding that a few lo­cals had al­ready left the area out of fear.

A sec­ond res­i­dent said: “They said they didn’t want to hurt us and that their war was with the mil­i­tary and po­lice in Lamu and not us.”

Chris­pus Mu­tali, Lamu County Ad­min­is­tra­tion po­lice com­man­der, said: “We are hear­ing about that alShabaab visit in Ba­suba but we can­not con­firm any­thing for now un­til we get clear in­for­ma­tion from of­fi­cers on the ground.”

Al Shabaab aims to top­ple So­ma­lia’s Western-backed govern­ment and im­pose its own strict ver­sion of Is­lamic law.

In June 2014, the group killed 65 peo­ple in Lamu County in back-toback as­saults over a 24-hour pe­riod.

It was also be­hind a raid on Nai- robi’s West­gate Mall in 2013 that killed 67.

In its worst at­tack in Kenya, its gun­men killed 148 peo­ple at a univer­sity in April.

Mean­while, Abubakar Shekau says he is alive and still the leader of Is­lamist sect Boko Haram, deny- ing re­ports he is dead, ac­cord­ing to a new au­dio mes­sage quoted on so­cial me­dia on Sun­day.

Reuters could not in­de­pen­dently ver­ify the authen­tic­ity of the au­dio mes­sage.

So­cial me­dia feed of ji­had mon­i­tor­ing site Site In­tel­li­gence quoted a new au­dio mes­sage re­leased from Shekau deny­ing re­ports that he is un­able to serve as leader.

There have been sev­eral claims by Nige­ria’s mil­i­tary that Shekau has been killed over the last few years but he keeps resur­fac­ing in new videos or it could be “im­pos­tors” pos­ing with the same name, se­cu­rity sources have said.

Last week Chad’s Pres­i­dent Idriss Deby said Boko Haram leader Shekau was wounded and has been re­placed as leader by Ma­hamoud Daoud, adding that Shekau went to Maiduguri, cap­i­tal of Borno state, af­ter he was wounded.

Deby said the new Boko Haram leader, about whom lit­tle is known, was open to the idea of talks with Abuja.

“In­fi­del me­dia pub­lished that I’m dead, or sick and can’t speak, this is an ut­ter lie,” Rita Katz, di­rec­tor of Site In­tel­li­gence posted on her so­cial me­dia site quot­ing Shekau as say­ing to ISIS leader, Bagh­dadi.

Shekau’s last video ap­pear­ance was in Fe­bru­ary, when a per­son claim­ing to be him - an­a­lysts be­lieve he may have been im­per­son­ated - threat­ened to dis­rupt Nige­ria’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tions held the fol­low­ing month.

The group has re­leased at least five videos since then but Shekau has not ap­peared in any of them.

Sus­pected mem­bers of the mil­i­tant group Boko Haram have killed more than 600 peo­ple in Africa’s most pop­u­lous na­tion in a spate of bomb­ings and shoot­ings since Buhari was inau­gu­rated as pres­i­dent on May 29, ac­cord­ing to a Reuters tally.

Ef­forts to reach an agree­ment to end the vi­o­lence, in­clud­ing a 2014 deal fos­tered by Chad, have re­peat­edly failed dur­ing the six-year in­sur­gency waged by the group in its bid to set up a state in the north-east ad­her­ing to strict Is­lamic laws.

— Reuters

Al SHABAAB mil­i­tants swept into a Kenya vil­lage on Satur­day.

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