Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents issued an ultimatum to Kenya on Wednesday to release all prisoners held on terrorism charges or they will execute all Kenyan hostages they hold.
Issuing a February 14 deadline, the extremist group demanded in messages posted on Twitter the release of "all Muslim prisoners held on so-called terrorism charges in Kenya".
Kenya must also "secure the release of Muslims extradited to Uganda for terrorism charges", it added, apparently referring to those jailed or on trial for the Shebab’s July 2010 twin bomb attacks that killed at least 74 people in Kampala.
The Shebab also released a video titled "the final message" with two men featured and a photograph of four others, who the Shebab said were Kenyan prisoners.
It was not possible to verify the video, and it is not clear how many Kenyans the Shebab may hold, having in the past claimed to have kidnapped two civil servants from inside Kenya and Kenyan soldiers in Somalia.
"Following the expiration of this period, all the kuffar (non-Muslim) Kenyan prisoners who appeared in the recent video will be executed," the Shebab added on Twitter.
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 sympathisers, although the Shebab have not claimed the attacks themselves.