NAIROBI — Kenya will not pull troops out from Somalia until security is restored, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said Monday, a day after 17 people died in the worst attack in a decade that he blamed on Somali Islamists.
Speaking in the eastern Kenyan garrison town of Garissa, where masked gunmen on Sunday hurled grenades into two churches before firing guns into the congregation, Odinga offered a defiant message to the Al-Qaeda linked Shebab.
"Surrender is not an option for us, because if we leave Somalia, anarchy will set in which will spill over the borders," Odinga told reporters.
"Kenya will stand together even as Al-Shebab acts in desperation... Al-Shebab are reacting to the progress made by our forces in Somalia. We shall stand united and in solidarity."
Kenya has suffered a spate of gun, grenade and bomb attacks since sending troops into southern Somalia last October to target Shebab rebels fighting to overthrow the weak UN-backed government in the Horn of Africa state.
However, the well organised and coordinated attacks appear to mark a scaling up from previous smaller attacks, which have often been simply grenades hurled into bars or bus stations.
The attacks in Garissa were the deadliest since an Al Qaeda-claimed bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa in 2002, in which 18 people died.
Observers fear that insurgents could copy tactics used in Nigeria, which has suffered a string of almost weekly attacks on church services in recent months in which dozens have been killed.
The Vatican on Sunday condemned the killings, noting attacks on people "in their place of worship has become a method, believed to be particularly efficient, of spreading hatred and fear."
Odinga voiced concern that the Shebab, who profess allegiance to Al-Qaeda "could link up with other terrorist groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria," although he gave no further details.
Kenya Red Cross said seven people remained in a critical condition in hospital following the attacks, which wounded dozens more.
The Shebab have not claimed responsibility for the attack, although the pro-Shebab Twitter site Al-Kataib boasted of a "successful operation in Garissa."
Meanwhile four foreign aid workers abducted on Friday from Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp complex -- the world's largest and home to some 465,000 mainly Somalis fleeing their lawless nation -- were released safely on Monday in Somalia.
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