How Kenyan Muslims saved Christians from Islamist extremists

Islamic attackers attempted to cull Christians out of a group of bus travelers in Kenya.

Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP/File
Hundreds of newly trained Al Shabab fighters perform military exercises in the Lafofe area some 18 km south of Mogadishu, in Somalia on Feb. 17, 2011.

Christian passengers were spared likely death after the bus they were traveling in was ambushed by suspected Islamic militants – thanks to the actions of a group of Kenyan Muslims.

The terrorists, thought to belong to the Somali-based Al Shabab militant group, killed two people in the attack before ordering the Muslim passengers to split away from the Christians – but the Muslims on board refused their demands. 

Julius Otieno, the deputy county commissioner, confirmed the account, saying that the militants "were trying to identify who were Muslims and who were not," and that the Muslim passengers had refused to help.

Al Shabab's military spokesman Sheik Abdiasis Abu Musab said the group had staged an attack in Kenya in which gunmen fired shots at the bus.

"Some of the Christian enemies died and others were injured," he told Reuters in a statement.

The attack took place near the northeastern town of Mandera on the Somali border, an area often targeted by Al Shabab militants.

The majority of the local population in the northeastern region of Kenya are Muslims of Somali origin, and they have suffered huge economic losses due to Al Shabab attacks.

Last year, a bus was attacked near Mandera by Al Shabab militants, who killed 28 non-Muslims mostly traveling to the capital Nairobi for the Christmas holidays. This caused the departure of many teachers, as well as many health workers who had come from other parts of the country.

Al Shabab has increased their attacks in Kenya since 2011 after the Kenyan government ordered a cross-border incursion intended to create a security buffer zone in southern Somalia and stop the militants from crossing the long, porous border between the two countries and kidnapping people – which was affecting tourism.

In September 2013, Al Shabab gunmen attacked an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi and murdered at least 67 people.

This past April, Al Shabab stormed Garissa University College in the same region. The militant group killed two security guards, then singled out Christian students, killing 148. 

This report contains material from Reuters and The Associated Press.

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