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AU vows to press on with fight against Shebab

Despite lastest Nairobi attack seen as retaliation for Kenyan presence in Somalia, the African Union to press on with 17,000-strong mission to fight Al Qaeda-linked Shebab militants in Somalia

AFP , Tuesday 24 Sep 2013
In this photo released by the African Union-United Nations Information Support Team, Kenyan soldiers serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) sit on a flat-bed truck as a convoy makes its way between the port and the airport in Kismayo, southern Somalia (Photo: AP)
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The African Union vowed Tuesday to press on with its fight against Al Qaeda-linked Shebab militants in Somalia following a deadly siege in Kenya that is 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, told AFP.

Shebab has claimed responsibility for the bloody attack at Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall, which started Saturday and has so far left at least 65 people dead and about 200 injured.

Mwencha said the bloody siege underscores the difficulty of fighting Shebab rebels, whose threat extends beyond the borders of Somalia.

"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 must work together to exchange intelligence and expertise to stamp out the Shebab threat.

The 17,000-strong African Union mission in Somalia, or AMISOM, has been battling Shebab extremists in Somalia since 2007.

Mwencha said AMISOM troops - which 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.

"However large a force you are, there's no amount of work that can be enough to try and flush them out of society," he said, stopping short of saying there was a need to increase troops numbers.

AMISOM is funded by the United Nations and the European Union and is made up of regional troops, including Kenyan troops who were "re-hatted" into the mission last year after invading Somalia in 2011.

Shebab said the mall attack was in retaliation for Kenya's military intervention in Somalia.

The UN special representative for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, also called Tuesday a redoubling of efforts in battling the militants.

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