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Kenya's military rules out talks with Somali militants

Friday, January 25, 2013

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NAIROBI  (Xinhua) -- The Kenyan military on Thursday ruled out negotiatingwith Somalia's Al-Shabaab militants who have threatened to kill hostages unless theEast African nation releases all Muslim prisoners held on terrorism charges.

Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) spokesman Colonel Cyrus Oguna said the hostagesshown on the insurgents' video which was released on Wednesday were not Prisonersof War since they were not soldiers.

Oguna said the government cannot negotiate with the Al-Qaida- allied group becausethey are terrorists who have committed various criminal acts such as kidnapping andkillings.

"First of all, we cannot talk to Uganda to release prisoners being in their custody onterrorism charges as they have alleged. The prisoners who are in Kenyan custody arecriminals who are being held for committing various crimes," Oguna told Xinhua bytelephone on Thursday.

"As far as KDF is concerned, negotiating with criminals are out of question. Thegovernment cannot also negotiate with terrorists. Al-Shabaab kidnapped Kenyans whowere performing civilian duties and that is a criminal activity that is punishable by law."

In a statement posted on the militants Twitter account, the Al- Qaida-allied group gaveKenya which launched cross border incursion into southern Somalia in October 2011 topursue militants blamed for a spate of insecurity in the country, a three week ultimatumto release the prisoners.

"Kenyan government must release all Muslim prisoners held on so- called terrorismcharges in Kenya. The Kenyan government must secure the release of Muslimsextradited to Uganda for terrorism charges," Al-Shabaab said in the message postedon its Twitter.

Exactly a year ago, Al-Qaida-allied terror group released the photos of Fredrick Irunguwho is an Immigration Clerk and Edward Mule, a District Officer who were abductedalong with two Administration Police Officers at Gerille town in Wajir South.

Al-Shabaab fighters stormed an Administration Police camp at Garile in Wajir South,some seven kilometers from the border with Somalia on January 2012, killing six peopleand abducted the two government officials including two government officials.

Oguna said the four hostages who are being held by the insurgents were kidnappedand are not Prisoners of War. He called on the militants to release them.

"The Kenyans were abducted last year by Al-Shabaab while performing civilian serviceswhich is a criminal matter but we are only concerned about their safety. I wish to call onthem to release the four," Oguna said.

The insurgents have also released photos where the abducted Kenyans whose nameswere not disclosed appear depressed, having been in captivity for several days.

"The video carries an important message from the prisoners and Kenyan governmentis advised to pay close attention to the pleas of their POWs (Prisoners of War)," Al-Shabaab said in the message which was released on Wednesday night.

The insurgents said the release of the Muslim prisoners is unconditional and must bemade public failure to which the hostages will be killed.

Oguna said KDF which is part of the UN-backed AU peacekeeping mission in Somalia(AMISOM) and Somalia National Army (SNA) are continuing with pacification operationsin the north, central and southern sectors.

The Kenyan operation has mostly enjoyed a solid public backing for its resoluteness indealing with the threat of the Al-Shabaab on the economic, social and political interestsof Kenya.

The threats came barely a week after the militants executed the French intelligenceagent Denis Allex in retaliation for a botched French operation to free him.

The East African nation has heightened security around the country with securityagencies at an unprecedented state of alert after latest reports that Al-Shabaab haveplanned attacks against Kenya and foreign interests in the country.

The militant group has also come under pressure from African Union peacekeepers,which have pushed them out of the Somali capital Mogadishu and from Ethiopia.

Al-Shabaab is known for enforcing a strict brand of Islam in the areas under its rule andis believed to have links to Al-Qaida. The group has also blocked some internationalaid workers from accessing parts of Somalia suffering from drought and famine.

Source: Xinhua

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