MOGADISHU — A top radical Islamist leader in Somalia, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, called on Sunday for more suicide attacks against African Union peacekeepers in the country, after a deadly strike last week.
"I... call upon the people to carry out more attacks against the African forces; they came to Somalia to assist our enemy, kill them (...) in any way possible and use suicide attacks to kill them," he said.
The Hezb al-Islam official was speaking at a public prayer at Elashabiyaha, about 18 kilometres (10 miles) west of Mogadishu on the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Twenty-one people, including 17 AMISOM peacekeepers, died in Mogadishu Thursday in twin car bomb attack claimed by another Somali insurgent group. It was the deadliest strike on AU forces since their deployment in Somalia in 2007.
"They (African peacekeepers) must leave our country otherwise there will not be peace," added Aweys, who is wanted by the United States for his suspected ties with Al-Qaeda.
"The enemy of Allah is targeting Muslims all over the world, it is not only Nabhan that they killed recently but they are targeting many others, such attacks will only increase hate and violence."
He was referring to Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a top regional Al-Qaeda leader and Kenyan citizen wanted by the FBI over the 2002 anti-Israeli attacks in Mombasa. He was killed last week when his vehicle was targeted by US helicopters in southern Somalia, according to US officials and Western security sources.
Thursday's attack on AU peacekeepers followed a pledge by the Shebab Islamist movement to avenge Nabhan's killing.
It has also heightened fears in Kenya that the unrest in Somalia could spill over into neighbouring country and intelligence officials in the Kenyan capital have warned of a high risk of extremist attacks.
On Sunday Kenyan military officials said Sunday they have stepped up surveillance of the northern border with Somalia.
"The recent development and attacks cannot be taken lightly and that is why we have asked our officers manning the border points to be vigilant," Ongeri said.
The radical Islamist Shebab and Aweys's group have launched a vast offensive against the UN-backed transitional government of Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
Sharif and his former comrade in arms Aweys were at the head of the Islamic Courts ousted in late 2006 when Ethiopian troops intervened in Somalia to bolster the fledgling government forces.
Two years later, after the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces, Sharif was named Somalia's president last January, when he was seen as a leader who could bring together the different factions within the lawless country.
But the insurgents have turned on Sharif -- an Islamic cleric -- accusing him of selling out to the West and have targeted the African peacekeepers, demanding their departure from the country.Source: AFP