NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – An attack on a bus and a truck in Kenya by Islamic extremists from Somalia’s Al Shabaab insurgency took two Christian lives in December.
In the attack on a bus with more than 100 passengers in Kenya’s northeast on Dec. 21, the Al Shabaab rebels tried to separate Christians from the Muslims for execution, but Muslims on board took pains to protect the Christians, an area source said.
Al Shabaab militants stopped the bus from Nairobi to Mandera near El Wak village. Muslims on board told the assailants that the militants would have to kill them all or leave them in peace. The Muslim passengers loaned their Islamic face coverings to Christian women and hid other Christians behind bags.
The area Christian source said one Christian who tried to flee was gunned down.
“We lost one of our church members, Meshack Owino, who tried to run away and was shot dead, and three other passengers were injured while the Muslims refused to go back into the bus when the militia commanded them,” said the source, who requested anonymity. “They decided to shield the Christians as the militia tried to separate the Muslims and Christians.”
Militants with Al Shabaab, which has taken responsibility for the attack, hid when they heard the sound of a truck that they thought might be a vehicle of the Kenya Defence Forces, he said. Passengers returned to the bus, which was between Dabacity Town and Borehole II, and it quickly continued on its way, the source said.
“To us Christians living in Mandera, we see this as God’s intervention,” he said.
Al Shabaab militants stopped the truck, however, and killed the driver, said to be a Christian, when he could not meet their demand to recite the Islamic creed, or Shahada, according to news reports.
“The militants seized a lorry that was behind the Makkah bus, and the conductor was killed after he failed to recite the Islamic Shahada,” the Daily Nation reported.
On July 7, 2015, Al Shabaab killed 17 quarry workers near Mandera, including several Christians. The attack in Soko Mbuzi took place at about 1 a.m. as the workers slept in tents outside two houses their employer rented for them, an area Christian leader told Morning Star News. As in previous attacks, the Islamic insurgents targeted migrant workers from the Kenyan interior who were non-Muslims, he said.
On Dec. 2, 2014, Al Shabaab killed 36 non-Muslims, most of them Christian, in an attack on quarry workers near Mandera, close to the border with Somalia. The killings came after a Nov. 22, 2014 assault by Somali insurgents in the same area that left 28 non-Muslims dead, including 19 Christians.
Al Shabaab, which has ties to Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the Dec. 2 massacre, calling it vengeance for police raids on mosques in Kenya and Kenyan military involvement in displacing the Islamic extremist militants from Somalia. Prior to the Nov. 22 attack, police raided and closed four mosques in Mombasa that they said were recruitment centers for Islamic terrorists.
Al Shabaab rebels have launched several attacks in northeast Kenya since Kenyan forces led an African coalition into Somalia against the rebels in October 2011, in response to terrorist attacks on tourists and others on Kenya’s coast.
On Monday (Dec. 28) the Kenyan military mistakenly killed two Somalis mistakenly suspected of being members of Al Shabaab in Mandera, which resulted in area Muslims attacking Christians in retaliation, an area source told Morning Star News.
“Rowdy Muslim youths in Mandera attacked some Christians as scapegoats for the killing of their fellow Muslims,” the source said. “A member of our church and another Christian were injured during the attack. Our sister was hit with a stone on her head and back and was rushed to a Mandera hospital in a critical condition.”
The woman, whose name is withheld, has been discharged from the hospital and is in hiding, he added.
“We as Christians in Mandera feel threatened,” he said. “Please pray for us.”
Truck Attacks on Coast
Near Mpeketoni town on Kenya’s coast, a truck worker and two policemen were killed in an attack on two trucks owned by Christians on Dec. 16, an area source told Morning Star News.
Gunmen suspected to be members of Al Shabaab attacked the trucks, which supplied food, cement, stone blocks and other items to the predominantly Christian areas of Hindi and Mpeketoni, at a point about six miles from Mpeketoni. They first burned down communications stations of Safaricom and Orange telecommunications companies, rendering the area without a network signal, and the truck carrying blocks of stone was set on fire as the driver and other crewmen escaped, the source said.
The other truck, carrying cement, agricultural and other supplies, went three kilometers off the main Lamu highway before the assailants killed one of its crewmen and set it ablaze, the source said. Two other workers escaped.
Police arrived, and in the ensuing shoot-out, the gunmen killed two officers and escaped with the police vehicle.
Area Christians trying to resettle on their farms after a June 2014 massacre by Al Shabaab fear for their lives.
“The attackers were in police uniform with red caps,” said one of the Christians taking refuge at a police station in Hindi. “We thought that normalcy had returned to Lamu, but these Al Shabaab do not want us to live in peace.”