UN links Kenyan military to attacks on Somalia’s top telecom

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A new United Nations report says it has corroborated evidence of five attacks allegedly carried out by Kenya’s military on communication masts belonging to neighboring Somalia’s largest telecom provider. One attack killed two civilians in 2018.

The report by the U.N. panel of experts monitoring sanctions against Somalia says destroying telecommunication masts may prevent al-Shabab extremists from triggering explosives using mobile telephone signals.

The report, made public this week, says Kenya’s military denied involvement in the attacks. The military did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Hormuud Telecom Somalia says the attacks violate international law. The company asserts that its communications masts have been attacked 10 times by Kenya’s military over the past two years.

The attacks have caused at least $5 million in infrastructure while destabilizing communities, undermining Somalia’s economic development and impeding the coordination of humanitarian efforts, a company spokesman said.

Many people in the Horn of Africa nation long wracked by extremist attacks and climate shocks such as drought rely on remittances wired from family members in the Somali diaspora.

The destruction of telecom infrastructure may be aimed at curtailing the transmission of intelligence on troop movements or extremist operations, Hormuud said.

Kenya sent troops to Somalia in 2011 to fight al-Shabab, which also carries out attacks inside Kenya. As assault on a luxury hotel complex in the capital, Nairobi, in January killed 21 people.

The new U.N. report also said the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab remain “a potent threat” to regional peace and are now manufacturing home-made explosives, expanding their revenue sources and infiltrating government institutions.

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