January 16, 2012 / 4:11 PM / in 6 years

Eritrea did not fly arms to al Shabaab last Oct: UN

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Eritrea did not airlift arms to Islamist militants in the Somali town of Baidoa late last year, a preliminary U.N. report has found, pouring cold water on a charge that sparked a diplomatic row between the two countries.

Kenya accused Eritrea in November of delivering caches of weapons to al Shabaab, an al Qaeda-linked group battling to overthrow the Western-backed government in Mogadishu and fighting Kenyan troops in the south of Somalia.

Eritrea has repeatedly denied the accusation and said it is no enemy of Kenya’s

“The monitoring group’s preliminary assessment is that these reports were incorrect and that the alleged deliveries to Baidoa probably did not take place,” The U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea said in its latest report for December.

The U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea (SEMG) was established to keep an eye on violations of a two-decade old arms embargo on the lawless Horn of Africa nation.

“The SEMG will, however, continue to probe this matter and is awaiting additional information from the Kenyan authorities before reaching a final determination,” it said.

Nairobi said at the time it had intelligence that consignments of arms were flown to rebel-controlled Baidoa from Eritrea, and used the alleged deliveries as a pretext for launching air raids on rebel bases.

Kenyan officials have said that Eritrean denials are not enough, and that it should go further and denounce al Shabaab.

The east African country rolled into Somalia in mid-October to fight the Islamist insurgents, whom it blames for a slew of kidnappings on Kenyan soil. Ethiopia, too, has sent troops across its border, opening up a third front against the rebels.

“I urge all Muslims to start fire in Nairobi, Garissa and Addis Ababa. This time, the Christians are weak,” al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage told reporters at a press conference held outside Mogadishu.

Britain believes Islamist militants are completing plans to attack Kenyan institutions and sites popular with expatriates and tourists.

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