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Issue 512/ 19th - 25th Nov 2011
Israel Increase In Support For Kenya's Al-Shabaab Battle Draws Fresh Threats
Israel will increase its support for Kenya's battle against Somalia's Islamist insurgents, officials said, in a move which drew threats of fresh attacks from the militants' al-Qaeda-linked leadership.
Because "Christian" Kenya was reaching out to "Jews", Muslims had "a responsibility" to act, said a spokesman for al-Shabaab, the Somali jihadist group.
Shimon Peres, Israel's president, said his country would "make everything available" for Kenya to secure its borders and boost internal security as it continues its incursion into its anarchic neighbor.
There were few details of the surprise deal, which came a month after Kenya's invasion of Somalia to hunt down the Islamists.
But Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said: "Kenya's enemies are Israel's enemies".
"We have similar forces planning to bring us down," he said after meeting Raila Odinga, Kenya's prime minister, who was visiting Jerusalem. "I see it as an opportunity to strengthen our ties."
News of the agreement immediately drew fresh threats from al-Shabaab, which has been fighting Somalia's Western-backed government since 2007.
"We want to tell the Muslim world that we have the same religion, the same faith and the same god," Mohammed Ali Rage, al-Shabaab's spokesman, said in a message broadcast on jihadist radio stations.
"It is their responsibility to support their Muslim brothers in Somalia because the Kenyan Christians are seeking support from the Jews in Israel." Analysts warned that publicly linking Israel to the Kenyan mission threatened to "erode" the broad backing for the offensive among moderate Somalis.
"This move will give [al-Shabaab] room to push the perception that this is not just Kenya fighting for itself, but that it is a coalition of Christian or non-Muslims fighting against Muslims," said Andrews Atta-Asamoah of the Institute for Security Studies in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.
"It would have been preferable to delay this, or to accept help covertly.
"Now al-Shabaab will be the beneficiary, it will get more funding, more recruits, and the support that Kenya was getting on the ground will be eroded."
The deal could also backfire within Kenya, said another Somalia expert in Nairobi.
"There are large numbers of radicalized Muslim youth in Kenya already, and this kind of thing, using megaphone diplomacy to boast that Israel's behind you, will do no end of harm to trying to contain them," he said.
But Mr Odinga said that increasing threats "called for more advanced and improved security measures". Israel gave Kenya logistical help following al-Qaeda attacks on the US embassy in the capital, Nairobi, in 1998.
Four years later, al-Qaeda blew up a hotel on Kenya's coast popular with Israeli tourists, and tried but failed to shoot down a holiday jet taking off from Mombasa for Tel Aviv.
The news of the fresh Kenyan-Israeli agreement came as Unicef, the UN's children's charity, said the number of children killed and wounded in southern Somalia had soared in recent weeks.
Sikander Khan, the agency's representative for Somalia, said that 24 children were killed and 58 seriously injured in conflict in October – nearly double the number in every other month this year.
Source: The Telegraph