Panic grips Kenyans as terrorist group heightens threats via social media

January 11, 2012 11:54 pm 

NAIROBI, Jan. 11 — Anxiety is gripping Kenyans as Al-Shabaab militants intensify threats of terror attacks on the East African nation via social media and mobile phones.

The Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group has in recent days issued strong warnings that it will bomb Nairobi and other major cities.

The militants on Monday released a video through online social networking service Twitter.

In the video, Sheikh Ahmed Ali, a Kenyan Al-Shabaab leader who has turned against his country declares war on Kenya.

"Somalia is now turning to be like Iraq and Afghanistan, which were invaded by the Americans. We must fight to protect our religion and territories," Ali said in the video.

He declares war on Kenya, saying the East African nation should be fought because it has invaded Somalia. "Kenya has declared war against Somalia and Jihad should be waged inside Kenya, which is now a war zone," he says.

The lengthy video has sparked fears among Kenyans, with many flocking to the Internet to watch the threats.

"With threats of terror attacks hanging over Kenya, there is no way one can ignore such messages, however negative they are. It is good to watch them so that you get informed and stay safe," said George Wanjiru, who works with an insurance company in Nairobi.

Ali called on youths with Islamic faith to fight Kenya, which is worrying citizens in the country, bordered by Somalia to the northeast.

"That is a call that has great consequences for this country and must be taken seriously. Those words may be able to convince one or two individuals who may decide to carry out attacks," Wanjiru said.

He said the fact that many youths in Kenya were jobless and eager to take any opportunity that came their way was a security threat.

"When you go to Majengo, the slum where Sheikh Ali stayed for many years, there are hundreds of youths with no means to survive. It is the same situation in other informal settlements in Nairobi. These youths watching the video in the confines of their houses will take the Sheikh's messages as the gospel truth," he said.

The Kenyan police and military have urged civilians to ignore the messages but it seems their calls are doing little to dispel rising fear.

"We would like to inform the public that a purported terror alert text message is not from the U.N. office in Nairobi. There is no such intelligence from any credible source. We advise the public to go on with their business and observe normal security precautions," police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said after a text message was sent to Kenyans on Monday warning them of an imminent bomb attack in Nairobi.

"I no longer feel safe as I go about my business in Nairobi. Threats of terror attacks are flying all over. We do not know which one to ignore and which one to take seriously," Nairobi resident Joan Akumu said.

While Akumu believes the Kenyan authorities will thwart attempts by Al-Shabaab to attack the country, she said the messages on social media were harming citizens.

"Most Kenyans have access to the Internet. I have talked to my friends. About five of them have watched the video and there are others to whom I have sent the link. I believe most Kenyans will watch the video in the coming days," she said.

According to the Communication Commission of Kenya, there are about 14.3 million people in the country who have access to the Internet. (PNA/Xinhua) DCT/utb

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