NAIROBI, KENYA — Kenya’s president vowed Tuesday to keep the country’s troops in Somalia until that country is stabilized, after a Somali Islamic extremist group said it staged a deadly attack on an upscale Nairobi mall to force the withdrawal of Kenyan troops from its Horn of Africa nation.
The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab once controlled much of Somalia and most of the capital, Mogadishu, but has since been pushed back by Kenyan and other African Union forces to the southern reaches of the country.
The insurgent group’s Sept. 21 attack on the Westgate mall killed more than 60 people.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said that he would set up a commission of inquiry to see where there were lapses in operations to seize the mall from the terrorists and save those trapped inside, and how officials can avoid them in future. He spoke at a national inter-religion prayer service Tuesday. Kenyan officials have said the military caused a collapse of floors in the mall during the four-day standoff.
“If their desire is for Kenya to pull out from Somalia, my friends all they need to do is what they should have done 20 years ago, which is to put their house in order and Kenya will come back to Kenya,” Kenyatta said.
Somalia is struggling to establish a functional government after decades of conflict that was sparked by the 1991 ouster of long-time dictator Said Barre by warlords who then turned on each other. Al-Shabab militants have been waging an insurgency against Somalia’s U.N. backed government.
The chairman of the defense committee in Kenya’s parliament, Ndungu Githinji, said earlier in the day that Kenya had no choice in 2011 but to go into Somalia and stabilize the country to safeguard Kenya’s security and economic well-being.
Speaking during a TV breakfast show Githinji said contraband goods were being smuggled through Somalia into Kenya and Somali piracy in the Indian ocean was increasing the cost of importing and exporting goods, because of rise in insurance premiums.
Al-Shabab militants would cross into Kenya and kidnap tourists, which he said was threatening the security of the country and the tourism industry, a key pillar of Kenya’s economy.