Somalia's Shebab claim Djibouti attack against 'crusaders'
Somalia's Shebab rebels on Tuesday claimed responsibility for a weekend bomb attack on a Djibouti restaurant packed with Westerners, saying it targeted French "crusaders".
The Al-Qaeda-linked group also urged the Horn of Africa nation and key Western ally to expel foreign forces and shut down the United States' main Africa base, or else face a wave of more serious attacks.
"As part of the ongoing Jihad against the Western-led Crusade against Islam, Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen forces have on Saturday night carried out a successful operation against the coalition of Western Crusaders based in Djibouti," the group said in a statement.
The group said the attack "targeted a restaurant frequented predominantly by French Crusaders and their NATO allies from the US, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, resulting in 35 casualties".
It said the main targets were "French Crusaders" because of their "complicity in the massacres and persecution of our Muslim brothers in the Central African Republic and for their active role in training and equipping the apostate Djiboutian troops".
Shebab said the attack was also carried out in retaliation for Djibouti's hosting of the United States' biggest military base in Africa.
The US base is used for operations across the region, including drone strikes against the Islamists in Somalia in support of the war-torn country's fragile internationally-backed government. France, the former colonial power, also has a base in the country.
Troops from Djibouti are also part of the African Union force in Somalia fighting the Shebab, and Djibouti's port also serves as a key base for ships taking part in international anti-piracy operations off the Somali coast.
The attack is the first in Djibouti to be claimed by Shebab since the country joined the AU force in 2011. The militants have already carried out attacks in Kenya and Uganda, who also contribute to the 22,000-strong AMISOM force.
Officials said three people -- a Turkish national and two suicide bombers, one of them a woman -- died in the attack, although the Shebab statement claimed that two "senior French commanders" were also killed.
Local authorities have said seven French nationals, four Germans, three Spanish and several locals were hurt, while the French foreign ministry has said its nationals were only lightly wounded.
- 'Deal with the Devil' -
In September last year Shebab carried out its most high-profile attack to date -- a suicide commando assault on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall that left at least 67 dead.
"Having assented to the terms of the contract in the war against Islam with Barack Obama and having allowed access of your land and facilities to the Crusaders, you have voluntarily signed a deal with the devil," the statement said in a message directed at Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh.
"This attack is just the beginning; it's merely the preliminary response and what will soon follow -- should you refuse to desist -- will be far worse," Shebab warned, calling on Djibouti to "pull your apostate troops out of Somalia immediately and expel all the Crusaders".
"Failure to do so would incur far-reaching repercussions for your country, both in terms of your security and economy," it added.
After the attack, Djibouti's president vowed it "will not change our determination to fight alongside the international community".
Shebab also urged ordinary Djiboutians, who are almost exclusively Muslim, to "stay well away from the Crusaders as they are the main target", and to "refrain from socialising with them or visiting their facilities and attending their gatherings for your own safety".
In a message to the "crusaders", the statement said: "You will not continue to enjoy the sun in Djibouti while you bury our children under tonnes of rubble and while you continue to persecute innocent Muslims in every corner of the world."
© 2014 AFP