NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — An al-Qaida-linked Somali militant group is suspected of killing at least 30 Kenyan civilians since Kenyan troops entered Somalia, a police spokesman said Saturday.
Eric Kiraithe said the killings are believed to have been carried out by sympathizers of the Somali insurgent group al-Shabab since October in Kenya. He said most of the attacks were carried out in towns near the border between the two nations.
Police say that dozens of Kenyan youth have been recruited by al-Shabab and are operating in the country. Al-Qaida announced earlier this month that it was merging with al-Shabab.
A Kenyan man admitted to being an al-Shabab member and was sentenced to life in prison late October after pleading guilty to throwing a grenade at a packed bus stop that killed one person in the capital city.
Kenya blames the militant group for several kidnappings, including those of four Europeans on Kenyan soil.
Soon after Kenya's military incursion, al-Shabab vowed to bring down skyscrapers and carry out suicide bombings in Kenya's capital.
The militant group claimed responsibility for the July 2010 suicide attacks in Kampala, Uganda which killed 76 people watching the World Cup final.
Military spokesman Col. Cyrus Oguna said the government is in discussions with influential religious leaders and community leaders to intervene to seek the release of more than 10 Kenyans being held captive by al-Shabab.
He said since the operation began the Kenyan army is now 68 miles (nearly 110 kilometers) inside Somalia but their advance has been slowed down because efforts to pacify the local communities.
"Pacification must continue until we are confident that the area is very stable very secure allow us to move forward," Oguna said.