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Kenyan Muslims Shield Christians During Militant Attack

  • Jill Craig

FILE - Kenyan security forces and others gather around the scene on an attack on a bus in November 2014 in northeastern Kenya.

FILE - Kenyan security forces and others gather around the scene on an attack on a bus in November 2014 in northeastern Kenya.

A group of Kenyan Muslims traveling on a bus ambushed by Islamist gunmen protected Christian passengers by refusing the attackers' demands to split into groups by religion.

Two people died in the attack Monday in north Kenya's Mandera County when gunmen, believed to be Somalia's al-Shabab rebels, shot at the bus.

Witnesses said some of the Muslim passengers gave non-Muslims head scarves to conceal their identities when the bus stopped, probably remembering a previous attack in the same region last year when al-Shabab gunmen killed 28 non-Muslims taken from a bus.

Local officials said the attackers ordered everyone to get off the bus and form two separate groups of non-Muslims and Muslims. But both groups of passengers refused, daring the extremists to kill them all.

The militants decided to leave after the passengers' show of unity.

A positive step

Security expert and director of the Center for Risk Management in Africa George Musamali said this is a positive step for Kenya.

“There is a general belief that most Kenyans believe the Muslims are shielding the al-Shabab and are aiding and carrying out attacks inside Kenya. But that show of togetherness and resoluteness during that attack is a clear indication that our Muslim brothers in Kenya are with us in this fight against terrorism,” said Musamali.

Kenya has experienced a wave of retaliatory attacks by al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaida, since it sent troops to Somalia to fight the extremists in 2011.

Targets inside Kenya

Musamali said it is concerning that al-Shabab has carried out successful attacks inside Kenya.

“I think we are still not in control of the situation because we heard about that Mandera attack, there was also another attempted attack also in the same area, and we’ve had similar attacks along the coastal area, that is Lamu around the Boni forests, where we are having security operations going on,” said Musamali.

Al-Shabab has said it will continue the attacks until Nairobi withdraws its troops.

FILE - Kenyan military personnel stand near bodies lined up on the ground at a quarry site where attackers killed at least 36 workers in a village in Korome, outside the border town of Mandera, Dec. 2, 2014.

FILE - Kenyan military personnel stand near bodies lined up on the ground at a quarry site where attackers killed at least 36 workers in a village in Korome, outside the border town of Mandera, Dec. 2, 2014.

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