MOGADISHU, Somalia -- Somali militants threatened Monday to bring down Nairobi skyscrapers after Kenya sent hundreds of troops into Somalia. The threat came from the same lawless country in which the al-Qaida masterminds behind 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies sought refuge.
The Kenyan invasion comes at a time when al-Shabab has been weakened by famine in its strongholds, has been pushed from the capital of Mogadishu by African Union troops and finds itself increasingly challenged by clan militias.
The United States has launched airstrikes against leaders of the Islamist militant al-Shabab amid concerns over terrorist training camps in the failed state of Somalia.
The men who masterminded the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania found shelter in the chaos of its 20-year-old conflict.
Al-Shabab lashed out in a news conference in an eloquent English statement yesterday, saying that the "bloody battles that will ensue as a result of this incursion will most likely disrupt the social equilibrium and imperil the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians." The statement urged Kenyans to tell their "saber-rattling politicians" not to let the "flames of war" spill over into Kenya, destroying the nation's sense of stability.
"Your skyscrapers will be destroyed, your tourism will disappear. We shall inflict on you the same damage you inflicted on us," Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage, a spokesman for al-Shabab, said at a Mogadishu news conference.
Kenya moved two battalions of about 800 troops each across the border in two locations on Sunday, a Nairobi-based official said. Tanks, helicopters and artillery have also been deployed. The invasion is the most significant foreign deployment of the Kenyan military since independence from Britain in 1963.
Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir, a Kenyan military spokesman, would say only that there were "sufficient" troops in Somalia. He did say five Kenyan military personnel were killed when their helicopter crashed Sunday near the border. Kenya says the invasion is in retaliation for the abduction of four Europeans, two aid workers and two tourists, on Kenyan soil.