By Abdi Sheikh
MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somalia said on Friday it had lost confidence in Kenyan troops serving in an African Union (AU) peacekeeping force, in the latest sign of worsening relations between the two neighbours.
The friction could strain cooperation in the campaign against the Islamist group al Shabaab in Somalia, where the Kenya Defence Forces provide about 3,600 troops to the AU force.
Last month, Somalia cut diplomatic relations with Kenya after accusing it of meddling in its politics. It recalled its diplomats from Nairobi and ordered Kenya's diplomats to leave Mogadishu.
The government had lost confidence in the "KDF's ability to support the effort to stabilize and bring about a long term peace and security, given the overt manner that the government of Kenya has sought to exploit its presence in the country as a pretext to further its national interest," the Somali foreign ministry said.
"The KDF cannot both support stability and be an instigator of insecurity in Somalia," a ministry statement added. It did not elaborate.
Kenya's ministry of foreign affairs was not immediately available for comment on the announcement.
In November, Somalia expelled Kenya's ambassador and recalled its own envoy from Nairobi after accusing Nairobi of interfering in the electoral process in Jubbaland, one of Somalia's five semi-autonomous states.
On Thursday, Kenya's government spokesman Cyrus Oguna rejected Somali accusations that Nairobi was meddling in Somalia's internal affairs.
"As a country, we want to state very clearly, that we will not accept to be drawn into internal politics of Somalia," he said in a statement. "Allegations by Somalia that Kenya is sponsoring and harbouring militia with the objective of destabilizing Somalia are not based on any merit."
On Monday, at least 11 people were killed after fighting broke out between the Somali federal army and Jubbaland state forces in the Gedo region of southwestern Somalia.
Mogadishu accused Kenya of backing Jubbaland in the fighting, an accusation that Jubbaland denies. Kenya's foreign ministry called for hostilities to cease, warning that the fighting could destabilise the region.
(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh; writing by Clement Uwiringiyimana; editing by Omar Mohammed, William Maclean)