NAIROBI, Kenya – NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Somalia's al-Qaida-linked group has warned African countries against plans to send additional troops to the war-ravaged country, saying they would be "annihilated."
African leaders and U.S. officials have called for stepped-up efforts in Somalia after the country's most feared militant group, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for twin bombings during the World Cup final in Uganda on July 11.
Earlier this week at an African Union summit in Uganda, Africa's leaders pledged 4,000 more troops to aid the 6,000 Ugandan and Burundian soldiers now stationed in Mogadishu.
Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage, al-Shabab's spokesman, said late Wednesday that those 6,000 troops are already "suffering" from al-Shabab attacks, and that "whoever they bring in will end up in the same fate as his predecessor."
"We are telling the African populations not to get duped by the mirage peddled by your leaders. Let your sons not be annihilated in Mogadishu," Rage said. "Those who are pushing your leaders such as the U.S. and Europe and the like are in agony in areas they invaded. All the want is for you to share with their people the loss, mourning and cries."
Al-Shabab said it targeted Uganda on July 11 because Ugandan troops have killed Somali civilians in Mogadishu.
Shelling is a near-daily occurrence in Somalia's capital, and international rights groups have decried the deadly impact on civilians.
Al-Shabab is stirring up emotions against African troops, whose mandate includes protecting top Somalia officials and manning key installations in the capital. Islamic insurgents including al-Shabab have been trying for three years to overthrow the fragile, U.N.-backed government, which is holed up in a small section of the capital.
Civilians have suffered through nearly two decades of violent chaos in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, since the country's government was overthrown in 1991. The AU force, known as AMISOM, has long been criticized by human rights groups for civilian deaths in Somalia, and internal reports obtained by The Associated Press show the mission itself is aware of the problem.
"The meaning of their claim that they are helping the Somali people is — to explain it to you — your leaders and sons massacring innocent populations through daily and nightly shelling," Rage said.