Somalia Islamists sow chaos in Kenya to harvest war at home
ADDIS ABABA - The African Union and United Nations vowed Tuesday to step up the fight against Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab militants in Somalia following the deadly siege in Kenya now in its fourth day.
"Our resolve is to fight now more than ever before," the deputy head of the AU's executive branch, Erastus Mwencha, said.
Nicholas Kay, UN special representative for Somalia, told reporters in Geneva that the United Nations would "intensify our campaigns" in the country.
"It must be military, but also political and practical... On all three, we need to redouble our efforts," Kay said.
The Shebab have claimed responsibility for the bloody attack at Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall, which started Saturday and has left at least 65 people dead and about 200 injured.
Mwencha said the bloody siege underscored the difficulty of fighting the Islamist rebels, whose threat spills across the Somali border into Kenya and beyond.
"This is a moving target which we must constantly update ourselves (on) and continue to be vigilant in our fight," he said, adding that the international community should work together, exchanging intelligence and expertise, to stamp out the Shebab threat.
The Shebab said the mall attack was in retaliation for Kenya's military intervention in Somalia, where a 17,000-strong African Union mission (AMISOM) has been battling the extremists since 2007.
Mwencha said AMISOM troops -- who have liberated large swathes of southern Somalia including the capital Mogadishu -- are fighting Shebab rebels who have "melted into society", making them harder to pin down.
For his part, Kay said the international community needs to "really put a shoulder to the wall in terms of supporting the build-up of Somalian national security forces".
"Security remains the number one challenge, and controlling and defeating al-Shebab is key to this," Kay said.
But the UN envoy also pointed to cause for optimism for the country, which has been fought over by warlords since the collapse of central government in 1991, but which today has large parts that are relatively peaceful and developing.
"Despite these tragedies and despite these murders... in Somalia we have at the moment the best opportunity we have had for a generation to assist a country to return to peace and eventual prosperity," he said.