Kenya, Somalia look for international help to fight Al Shabab

As much as half of Al Shabab's income comes from businesses in the Somali port city of Kismayo. Kenya and Somalia have requested international support for a naval blockade on the town.

Ben Curtis/AP
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, center-left, accompanied by Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, right, speaks to the media following their meeting in Nairobi, Kenya on Monday. An airstrike hit a refugee camp in southern Somalia killing at least five people and wounding dozens more, an international aid agency said Monday, while Kenya's military acknowledged carrying out an air raid but said it killed only Islamist militants, and Prime Minister Ali said his government is looking into the airstrike and reported civilian deaths.

Kenya and Somalia have issued a joint appeal for foreign assistance in their fight against Islamic militants Al Shabab, as Kenyan forces continue to launch air strikes against the group in southern Somalia.

At a meeting in Nairobi, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali of the Somali Transitional Federal Government asked for international naval support to blockade the Al Shabab-controlled port town of Kismayo in Somalia, reports The New York Times. The Islamist organization is thought to get as much as half of its income from businesses in Kismayo, CNN reports, citing United Nations estimates.

Though Kenya and Somalia's joint appeal for aid did not single out any specific countries or organizations, the Times writes that a Somali spokesman said that his country would be interested in help from NATO, which just ended its Libya operations. And a Kenyan official said that the two countries had already approached the US and European nations for assistance. writes that the statement also raises the possibility of bringing charges of human rights violations against members of Al Shabab at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The statement said that the Somali transitional government "will seek ICC assistance in beginning immediate investigations into crimes against humanity committed by individuals within the Al-Shabaab movement with the aim of seeking their indictment...."

Kenya stepped up its campaign against Al Shabab three weeks ago, when it launched an incursion into Somalia in its first major military operation beyond Kenya's borders since the end of the colonial period. But while the Somali transitional government initially expressed concern at Kenyan troops operating within Somali borders, Somalia's Prime Minister Ali said that the two governments were now working in concert, reports The Times of South Africa.

"I came with the blessing of the president. We will work with the Kenya government. There's no discord," said Ali.

"Somalia is a friendly country and we want to see it stable. The whole world wants peace in Somalia. It has taken long. Many have tried in vain, but we can't wait for a solution to come from heaven. We have to make our own efforts," Odinga was quoted as saying by the Nation newspaper after his meetings with the visiting Somali delegation.

But the incursion has not been without danger to Somalis, as the Associated Press reports that a Kenyan airstrike hit a Somali refugee camp Monday, killing at least five and wounding scores more, most of them children. Doctors Without Borders says that the airstrike targeted the camp, though Kenyan military officials say that the strike was aimed at an Al Shabab training camp, whose members fled the attack in an ammunition truck that exploded within the refugee camp.

Meanwhile, the FBI is investigating whether the suicide bomber who killed at least 10 people over the weekend is a US citizen from Minnesota. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that the FBI are doing DNA analysis to determine whether Abdisalan Hussein Ali, a Minneapolis college student who left in November 2008 to fight in Somalia, was behind the attack.

The bomber left an audio message in English calling upon young Muslims to "do jihad in America, do jihad in Canada, do jihad in England, anywhere in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in China, in Australia." Members of Minnesota's Somali community were divided as to whether the bomber's voice was Mr. Ali's, but the community has already seen several of its members leave to join Al Shabab, including at least two confirmed suicide bombers. Some worry that Al Shabab is turning its sights toward the US.

"It was more in line with the new face of Al-Shabab," said [Abdirizak] Bihi, whose nephew was among the more than 20 young Somali-American men from Minnesota believed to have been recruited to fight for Al-Shabab in Somalia's civil war. "This guy was more about the youth here."

In other recordings, Al-Shabab members call on youth to come to Somalia to fight. But in the latest message, the speaker encourages them to act against non-believers wherever they live, Bihi said.

"Asking them to act where they are is a new thing," he said.

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