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Kenya's military rules out talks with Somali militants


14:48, January 25, 2013

NAIROBI, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- The Kenyan military on Thursday ruled out negotiating with Somalia's Al-Shabaab militants who have threatened to kill hostages unless the East African nation releases all Muslim prisoners held on terrorism charges.

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

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

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

"As far as KDF is concerned, negotiating with criminals are out of question. The government cannot also negotiate with terrorists. Al-Shabaab kidnapped Kenyans who were 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 gave Kenya which launched cross border incursion into southern Somalia in October 2011 to pursue militants blamed for a spate of insecurity in the country, a three week ultimatum to release the prisoners.

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

Exactly a year ago, Al-Qaida-allied terror group released the photos of Fredrick Irungu who is an Immigration Clerk and Edward Mule, a District Officer who were abducted along 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 people and abducted the two government officials including two government officials.

Oguna said the four hostages who are being held by the insurgents were kidnapped and 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 services which is a criminal matter but we are only concerned about their safety. I wish to call on them to release the four," Oguna said.

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

"The video carries an important message from the prisoners and Kenyan government is 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 be made 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 operations in the north, central and southern sectors.

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

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

The East African nation has heightened security around the country with security agencies at an unprecedented state of alert after latest reports that Al-Shabaab have planned 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 and is believed to have links to Al-Qaida. The group has also blocked some international aid workers from accessing parts of Somalia suffering from drought and famine.

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