NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – Islamic extremists targeted Christians in the shooting deaths of 12 non-local Kenyans at a guest-house in Kenya’s northeastern town of Mandera early this morning, sources said.
Somali Al Shabaab rebels took responsibility for the pre-dawn attack on the guest-house, where a Kenyan theatre troupe from outside the area was staying, according to the militants’ radio affiliate. An area pastor told Morning Star News that Christians were targeted.
“Some of the students who died had visited my church for Sunday worship and had requested prayers,” he said. “The attackers knew exactly whom they were attacking, that is, the Christians.”
The pastor added that survivors told him that during the attack, the assailants were shouting, “Get rid of these infidel actors.”
The theatre group was made up of university students who reportedly travelled to the mainly Muslim area of Mandera to perform plays in local schools.
“This is a deadly attack targeting us Christians here in Mandera,” the pastor said. “Ten of the people who were killed were university students visiting Mandera for set-book [curriculum-related] performances at schools in the county for stage plays for Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam candidates. This is a well-calculated attack on Christians, as this was the last day for the performers in Mandera.”
The BBC reported that the group’s producer said they had received threats. He told BBC that the gunmen set off explosions and fired at them repeatedly as some off the theatre members hid in bathrooms.
Earlier this month, suspected Al Shabaab militants targeted Christians in a grenade and gun attack in the early morning of Oct. 6 that killed six people, sources said.
Targeting predominantly Christian migrant workers from Kenya’s interior, Al Shabaab reportedly took responsibility for the attack at a residential compound in Mandera, with a spokesman for the militants saying it was designed to drive Christians from the area. At least one of the victims was reportedly a Muslim.
The attack in Mandera, tucked in Kenya’s northeast corner near the Somali border, reportedly wounded several others. Among 27 people rescued were Christians who arrived at their church traumatized and in shock.
“The loud grenade woke me up, and I heard one of the attackers saying the ‘infidels’ should leave the Muslim area of Mandera,” one survivor told Morning Star News. “There were loud cries for help as the attackers were shooting from all directions.”
The pastor of an area church told Morning Star News that two members of his congregation were among those killed in the attack.
Earlier this year, in a pre-dawn raid on a predominantly Christian area in coastal Kenya, Al Shabaab rebels on Jan. 31 killed at least four Christians, beheading one of them, and they have carried out previous attacks in the Mandera area. An attack on a bus and a truck near Mandera by Al Shabaab insurgents took the lives of two Christians in December 2015, and on July 7, 2015, Al Shabaab killed 17 quarry workers near Mandera, including several Christians.
On Dec. 2, 2014, Al Shabaab killed 36 non-Muslims, most of them Christian, in an attack on quarry workers near Mandera. 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.
Kenya ranks 16th on Open Doors’ World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.