NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday led an interfaith memorial service honoring Kenyan soldiers killed while on peacekeeping duty in Somalia.
President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria and Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud attended the event at a military barracks in Eldoret.
"We owe these young patriots who gave everything a debt of honor," Kenyatta said. "We can begin to discharge it by resolving never to forget their sacrifices. We must also make sure that every single one of the cowards who murdered them will be hunted down and brought to justice."
In Nigeria Buhari faces the Boko Haram extremist insurgency while Mohamud's government in Somalia relies on foreign troops to protect against the Islamic extremists al-Shabab.
"Nigeria is standing in solidarity and is willing to work with Kenya and indeed other African countries and the global community at large with a view to defeating these (extremists)," Buhari said.
The Somali Islamic extremist group al-Shabab claims it killed about 100 Kenyan peacekeepers stationed in southern Somalia on January 15. Kenyan officials have not given a death toll, and it is unclear how many Kenyan peacekeepers have been killed or wounded in Somalia.
Before the ceremony started, relatives of the victims were seen being counselled as some broke down in tears.
Kenya first deployed troops to Somalia in 2011 to prevent Islamic extremists from crossing the border and launching attacks that threatened the country's crucial tourism sector.
Al-Shabab opposed the deployment, and vowed to launch more attacks inside Kenyan territory. To stem the attacks, Kenya has also considered building a high wall across the border.
Despite being pushed out of Somalia's major cities and towns, al-Shabab continues to launch deadly guerrilla attacks across the Horn of Africa country. The group frequently targets African Union troops, government officials and foreigners.