Somalia's Shebab massacre 36 in Kenya, vow more attacks

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Somalia's Shebab Islamists on Tuesday massacred 36 quarry workers in a fresh attack in northeastern Kenya, with the group vowing to conduct more "uncompromising, relentless and ruthless" operations.
A group of around 20 fighters from the Al-Qaeda-affiliated rebels raided a stone quarry near the town of Mandera in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Police and officials said they weeded out non-Muslims and shot them in the head, while some of the victims were also beheaded.
The attack came just over a week after the rebels executed 28 people who were grabbed from a bus travelling from Mandera, a border town located on the frontier between Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.
"In another successful operation carried out by the Mujahideen, nearly 40 Kenyan crusaders met their demise," Shebab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage said in a statement to AFP.
"This latest attack was part of a series of attacks planned and executed by the mujahedeen as a response to Kenya's occupation of Muslim lands and their ongoing atrocities," the statement added, citing Kenyan airstrikes inside Somalia and security crackdowns in Kenya's Muslim-majority port city of Mombasa.
In a separate attack late Monday in the town of Wajir, also in the northeast, one person was killed and 13 wounded when three masked gunmen hurled grenades and fired into a bar.
A Kenyan government statement, which only referred to the Mandera attackers as "heavily armed bandits", confirmed 36 workers had been killed. It offered condolences to the families of those executed, while UN envoy to Somalia Nicholas Kay condemned the "cruel and inhumane" killings.
Media reports said most of the victims were laid out on the ground and shot in the head, a style of killing used in the attack on the bus passengers.
The Shebab statement threatened more attacks on Kenyan soil by their 'Saleh Nabhan brigade' -- named after slain Shebab commander and Kenyan citizen Saleh Ali Nabhan, who was killed in 2009 by US special forces for his role as Al-Qaeda's chief in east Africa.
"As Kenya persists in its occupation of Muslim lands, kills innocent Muslims, transgresses upon their sanctities and throws them into prisons, we will persist to defend our land and our people from their aggression," the statement said.
"We are uncompromising in our beliefs, relentless in our pursuit, ruthless against the disbelievers and we will do whatever necessary to defend our Muslim brethren suffering from Kenya's aggression."
- Kenyatta under pressure -
Kenya has suffered a series of attacks since invading Somalia in 2011 to attack the Shebab, and its troops are still in Somalia as part of an African Union force battling the Islamists.
Professionals working in the largely Muslim and ethnic Somali northeastern regions often come from Kenya's central highlands, where Christians make up about 80 percent of the population. Those working in the quarry attacked on Tuesday were also reported to have been from outside the region.
Several key unions including for civil servants have warned their members to leave the restive northeast until the government can ensure their safety -- and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has been coming in for mounting criticism over worsening insecurity.
On Sunday the Nation newspaper reported that Kenya's embattled interior minister, Joseph Ole Lenku, and national police chief David Kimaiyo may soon be sacked over "repeated lapses" and dwindling public confidence in the country's security apparatus.
It said intelligence officials had alerted police to the presence of a group of Shebab attackers in the northeast before the bus attack, and added that survivors had said that police "took two hours to respond to distress calls" after the murders had taken place -- leaving the attackers plenty of time to escape.
The government has been under fire since last year's attack by the Shebab against the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, in which at least 67 people were killed in a siege involving just four gunmen and which lasted four days.
Worries over internal security mounted when Shebab rebels massacred 100 people in a string of Shebab raids against villages in the Lamu region on the Kenyan coast in June and July.
Shebab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane was killed in a US air strike in September. The group has since named Ahmad Umar, also known as Abu Ubaidah, as its new head.

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