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Somalia's al Shabaab urges Kenyan Muslims to boycott vote

Monday, March 04, 2013

Somali militants linked to al Qaeda urged Muslims to boycott Kenya's presidential election on Monday and wage jihad against the Kenyan military which sent troops into neighboring Somalia in late 2011 to help crush the rebels.

The Islamist al Shabaab rebel group told Kenyan Muslims, who account for about 11 percent of the population, that the Nairobi government treated them as foreigners and second-class citizens.

"Your regions are the least developed in Kenya and have the least facilities. You have been misled by the false promises of the presidential candidates and the same empty promises are repeated on every election campaign," al Shabaab said in a statement cited by the U.S.-based SITE service on Monday.

"What is incumbent upon you now is to ... boycott the Kenyan elections and wage jihad against the Kenyan military for they cannot afford to continue fighting an invasion abroad as well as an internal conflict at home," it said.

Kenya, voting for a new president on Monday, has suffered a wave of violent attacks since it sent soldiers into its anarchic neighbor in October, 2011, which Nairobi has typically blamed on al Shabaab and local sympathizers.

Most of the attacks have occurred in the capital and close to the Somali border

In Garissa, a largely Muslim town with a significant ethnic Somali population, two civilians were shot dead late on Sunday, local officials said. Earlier, the head of Kenyan police said the incident had been a grenade attack. A bomb also exploded in the Mandera area, near the border, wounding four people.

Under pressure from an African Union-led military offensive, al Shabaab has steadily lost territory and influence in Somalia over the past 18 months, but remains the biggest threat to regional stability. It has, however, failed to deliver on threats to carry out a spectacular attack in Kenya.

Kenya's military intervention in Somalia earned widespread popular backing at home and has barely registered in election campaigning.

(Writing by Yara Bayoumy; editing by Richard Lough and Philippa Fletcher)


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