Islamist gunmen ambushed a bus traveling from Nairobi to Mandera, Kenya on Monday, and demanded that passengers separate into groups of Christians and Muslims. But Muslim passengers refused these orders, protecting their Christian counterparts.
Gunmen believed to be al-Shabab supporters shot at a bus in north Kenya’s Mandera County Monday, killing two people.
Nairobi tour driver Boniface Mbili says these al-Shabab attacks are causing anxiety and hurting the country’s tourism industry.
“Once they attack there, they bring a lot of scare to the country and to the economy," said Mbili. "Because now people will be afraid of traveling, you know? Because we are not safe, anywhere, you cannot say you are safe because they can do it anywhere, you know. Especially in our transport section.”
But the passengers aboard the bus attacked Monday showed unusual bravery.
Witnesses say some Muslim passengers gave headscarves to non-Muslims to help them conceal their identities, likely remembering a previous attack in Mandera last year, when militants killed 28 non-Muslims taken off a bus.
According to local officials, the attackers ordered everyone off the bus and to separate into two groups of Muslims and non-Muslims. But passengers refused, telling the militants to kill them all.
The gunmen soon left.
Nairobi resident Mohamud Mohamed says this show of solidarity demonstrates the Kenyan spirit.
“And from that, from now, we the Muslims shall be the forefront to fight terrorism," said Mohamed. "You do not need to kill a brother of mine or a teacher, or a doctor who is treating you. Somebody is coming, then separating you into two different religions, killing one and leaving other, that one is a coward attack, and the Muslim community must confront that. What they did was heroic and we really welcome it, and that is what we believe on.”
Mohamed says the attack was un-Islamic.
“Islam has nothing to do with terrorism," he said. "Attacking an innocent person, it is not permitted in Islam. According to the teaching of the prophet Muhammad, everybody should be his brother’s keeper. So those attacks have nothing to do with Islam.”
Al-Shabab has staged a number of deadly attacks in Kenya since 2011, when the government sent troops into Somalia to fight the al-Qaida linked group.