Al Shabaab militants 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 Defence Force) soldier, there is still a chance of securing the release of the remaining five prisoners,” the Shabaab 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 Shabaab inside Somalia — to release “all Muslim prisoners held on so-called terrorism charges in Kenya”.
The Al Shabaab, 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 Al Shabaab 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 Shabaab supporters or Kenyan sympathisers, although the Al Shabaab have not claimed the attacks themselves.
But the once powerful Shabaab 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 Al Shabaab in the southwest of Somalia.
On Thursday, AU troops and government forces seized the towns of Janalle, Aw Dhigle and Barire, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu, the latest Shabaab bases to fall.
However, the Al Shabaab remain a potent threat, still controlling rural areas as well as carrying out guerrilla attacks in areas apparently under government control.