MALINDI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – Police in Kenya’s coastal area are searching for a gunman who shot a Christian dead at the gate leading to a church worship site on Sunday (Jan. 11) in Mombasa.
One of two men following 25-year-old George Muriki as he arrived with two church members at the gate leading to Maximum Revival Ministries church shot him three times in the back, apparently after mistaking him for the church pastor, the pastor said.
“The two other church members, who happened to be ladies, were pushed aside and one of the attackers said, ‘This is the church pastor,’ and there and then the attackers fired three times right at the back of George, who died at the spot,” said the pastor, whose name is withheld.
The pastor based his account on what the two traumatized women who witnessed the shooting told him, he said. Sources said Muriki tended to dress similarly to the way the pastor dressed.
The assailants fled as the two Christian women ran into the Mvita Primary School compound where the church regularly met in the Majengo area of Mombasa, on Mombasa Island.
“My life is in danger – I know I was the target, but God protected,” the pastor said. “Someone has been following me for the last one month. At one point this man made an appointment to meet me.”
The pastor had arranged to meet with the suspicious figure, who identified himself only as Mohammed. The pastor saw him upon arrival at the designated site for the meeting, he said.
“He was already there; he saw me but declined to meet me,” he said. “I reported the case to the police, and we retrieved his name. The police since then have not taken any action.”
The pastor said his wife and other church members are living in terror, and his family has moved to another person’s home to avoid a possible assault.
“The school hall also is not safe,” he added. “We have to move to another location; otherwise we are going to lose many members who are now afraid to come to church.”
Muriki, who was active in the 120-member church, was to be buried in his hometown of Meru in central Kenya, some 900 kilometers (560 miles) away, with the church having to cover the 200,000 Kenyan shilling (US$2,155) expense of transportation, coffin and food for mourners, sources said. He had come to the Mombasa area in 2012.
Another pastor at the church said leaders have requested the government provide security as churches have been targeted by the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), a violent separatist groupclaiming political and economic discrimination. The MRC includes Christians, but the Kenyan government has banned it as a “criminal gang” dominated by Islamic extremists. Members of theSomali Islamic extremist group Al Shabaab and sympathizers have also been active in northern and coastal Kenya.
“We thank the police presence at Mvita primary school, since it helped avert a worse catastrophe which could have happened in the attack,” said the second pastor.
The gunman’s motives are still unknown, Mombasa police official Henry Ondiek reportedly said. He told Kenyan press that the gunman was alone and that Muriki was shot after the pastor sent him to buy drinking water, two points that witnesses and the pastor said were untrue.
Another area church leader said the gunman escaped by motorbike.
“We know it was a planned attack on the church, especially on the pastor,” he said.
The church including the pastor were inside the school for the Sunday service at the time of the shooting.
Police reportedly said the assailants could be members of an active Islamic extremist terror cell in Mombasa blamed for past gun and grenade attacks. Islamic extremists were suspected in the Feb. 2, 2014 killing of 59-year-old Lawrence Kazungu Kadenge, an assistant pastor at Glory of God Ministries Church in the Majengo area of Mombasa.
On Oct. 19, 2013, suspected Islamic extremists in Mombasa killed pastor Charles “Patrick” Matole of Vikwantani Redeemed Gospel Church following riots associated with a mosque said to be a recruitment center for Islamic terrorists. Matole had received death threats.
On Monday (Jan. 12), a 70-year-old Christian who had just left Neno Evangelism Church in Mombasa was shot near Kenya Methodist University, sources said.
Ngoro Nyaga was hospitalized with a bullet wound in his shoulder at Coast Provincial General Hospital, an area church leader said. Nyaga had left the church building after a personal devotion and was stopped by two men near the university who questioned him about carrying a Bible, the leader said.
Nyaga tried to explain to them that he was coming from a church, and one of them began seizing him; when he tried to resist, the other man drew a gun and shot him in his left shoulder, he said.
Nyaga said the assailants appeared to be of Arab origin.
“I am grateful to God that am still alive,” Nyaga told the Morning Star News source.
A Mombasa police official said authorities have yet to establish a motive for the shooting.