Mogadishu (AFP) – The Nairobi mall carnage in which several foreigners were killed by Islamist fighters was a “message to Westerners” who supported Kenya, Somalia’s Shebab chief said in an audio message Wednesday.
Reclusive rebel supremo Ahmed Abdi Godane said the four-day bloodbath was a warning to Westerners who “backed Kenya’s invasion (of Somalia) that has spilled the blood of the Muslims for the interest of their oil companies”, in a message posted on an Islamist website.
Kenya invaded southern Somalia to attack Shebab bases two years ago, joining forces with a Somali militia warlord and wresting the key port of Kismayo from the extremists.
The troops later joined the 17,700-strong African Union force (AMISOM) deployed in Somalia.
Godane, who called the killing of at least 67 people including children a “historic operation,” threatened “more bloodshed” if Kenya did not withdraw its troops from Somalia.
Reportedly trained in Afghanistan with the Taliban, Godane — often known by the name Abu Zubayr — took over the leadership of the Shebab in 2008 after then leader Adan Hashi Ayro was killed by a US missile attack.
The U.S. State Department lists Godane as one of the world’s eight top terror fugitives, and has offered a $7 million bounty for him.
The Al-Qaeda linked group he co-founded has already claimed responsibility for the shocking assault on the sprawling complex, but it is the first time Godane has issued a public statement.
“The Kenyan people, you went to a war that is not yours and which is against your interests,” he said, in a speech peppered with the traditional verses of Somali martial poetry he is known to love.
“You have squandered your peace and prosperity and lost your boys. You elected your politicians, you pay the tax to arm the forces of Uhuru that are massacring the Muslims, you supported the decision to go to war,” he added.
In one of the worst attacks in Kenya’s history, the militants marched into the four-storey mall at midday Saturday, spraying shoppers with automatic weapons fire and tossing grenades.
“Make your choice: pull your forces out of Muslim lands or face more bloodshed on your soil,” Godane added.
Godane also accused Kenya’s president, who faces trial at The Hague-based International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity for violence after elections in 2007, of wanting to hold onto power at all costs.
“Don’t expect a solution from Uhuru, because he only wants to retain power. He spilled the blood of Kenyans during elections, and he is ready today to spill the blood of thousands of your boys inside and outside your country, to keep his seat by pleasing Western powers,” the broadcast said.
Godane added that Kenya was not ready for the violence he claimed his fighters could unleash.
“You cannot stand a long war inside Somalia and you will not survive deadly attacks at home too,” he said.