Somalia’s Shebab insurgents claim to have executed a captured Kenyan soldier and repeated threats to kill five other hostages, the extremists said Friday.
“While the mujahedeen have executed the serving KDF (Kenya Defense Force) soldier, there is still a chance of securing the release of the remaining five prisoners,” the Shebab said in a statement.
The claims could not be verified.
Last month the Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents issued a February 14 deadline ordering Kenya -- whose troops are fighting the Shebab inside Somalia -- to release “all Muslim prisoners held on so-called terrorism charges in Kenya.”
The Shebab, who have previously released videos of Kenyan civil servants they have kidnapped, have said they would execute five hostages within three days unless the Kenyan government buckles to their demands.
Kenya has been hit by a spate of attacks including hand grenade and bombs since it invaded southern Somalia in late 2011 to attack Shebab bases, following a string of kidnappings inside Kenya blamed on the Islamists.
Many of the attacks in Kenya -- including hand grenade blasts in the capital Nairobi -- are blamed on Shebab supporters or Kenyan sympathizers, although the Shebab have not claimed the attacks themselves.
But the once powerful Shebab are on the back foot inside Somalia, having fled a string of key towns ahead of a 17,000-strong African Union force -- which includes Kenyan troops -- which is also fighting alongside Somali soldiers.
Ethiopian troops are also battling the Shebab in the southwest of Somalia.
On Thursday, AU troops and government forces seized the towns of Janalle, Aw Dhigle and Barire, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu, the latest Shebab bases to fall.
However, the Shebab remain a potent threat, still controlling rural areas as well as carrying out guerrilla attacks in areas apparently under government control.