The UN’s special representative in Somalia, Nick Kay, said on Saturday that al-Shabab is “an organization that has a regional agenda.”
The leadership of the organization is pursuing something beyond just a “Somalia national agenda,” he said.
“It has had the capability and intent to carry out attacks across the region for some time,” Kay said, adding that the intention is “stronger now.”
The al-Shabab militant group has recently increased attacks against countries that contribute to the UN-backed African Union force that has been stationed in Somalia since 2007.
The militants have carried out several attacks in neighboring Kenya, including one on a shopping mall last September that killed at least 67 people. The group also claimed responsibility for two attacks earlier in June in a tourist area in Kenya that killed some 60 people.
Kay said, “It does require the countries of the region, with the support of the international community, to be much more joined up in their approach.”
Al-Shabab was pushed out of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, by African Union troops in 2011. However, the group still holds several smaller towns and areas in the center and south of the country.
Somalia has been the scene of clashes between government forces and al-Shabab fighters since 1991. The country did not have an effective central government until September 2012, when lawmakers elected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as the new president.