Kenya says kidnapping provocation by al Shabaab

Mon Oct 3, 2011 5:34pm GMT

By Humphrey Malalo

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya said on Monday the weekend kidnapping of a French woman was a serious provocation by Somalia's Islamist al Shabaab group which threatens the east African country's multi-million dollar tourism industry.

Internal Security Minister George Saitoti also warned that those behind the kidnapping "and all others who are trying to provoke Kenya have made a big mistake and will live to regret it."

In the second such kidnapping in recent weeks, gunmen stormed the private home of 66-year-old, wheelchair-bound Marie Dedieu on the northern coast island of Manda on Saturday.

They then grabbed and carried her to a waiting boat that crossed into Somalia, where the al Qaeda-allied rebels are in control of large swathes of the south and centre.

Analysts and diplomats in the region had warned that Somali pirates were likely to turn to softer targets, such as tourists in Kenya, in response to more robust defence of merchant vessels by private security guards.

Early last month, gunmen attacked British tourists at a camp resort a short speedboat ride away from northern Kenya's Lamu archipelago, killing a man and kidnapping his wife.

Last week, fighting also erupted on the Somali-Kenyan border, raising pressure on Kenya's authorities to beef up their defences against cross-border and sea-based attacks which threaten to hit a tourism industry that earned 74 billion shillings in 2010.

"This is a serious provocation on Kenya's territorial integrity by the al-Shabaab with negative effects on the tourism industry and generally also on our own investment," Saitoti told reporters.   Continued...

Internal Security Minister George Saitoti addresses the press at a conference in a file photo. EUTERS/Antony Njuguna
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