MUSLIMS travelling on a bus in northern Kenya defied armed Islamist terrorists who ambushed the vehicle, and helped to prevent a sectarian massacre by refusing to split into separate Muslim and Christian groups.
On Monday of last week, gunmen from the Somali al-Shabab group sprayed the bus with machine-gun fire before storming it and demanding that the passengers get off — Muslims on one side and everyone else on the other.
But the passengers refused to obey and reveal the Christians travelling among them, frustrating the militants’ attempts to murder the non-Muslims. After the show of defiance, the terrorists left.
Local Kenyan officials said, however, that two people had been killed in the attack, and another three had been injured.
A spokesman for al-Shabab told Reuters that its men shot at the bus, and “some of the Christian enemies died and others were injured.” The BBC reported that one passenger had died while trying to run away from the militants, once he had been forced off the bus.
One of the Muslim passengers, Abdi Mohamud Abdi, told Reuters that the Christians were given Muslim attire to hide them better among the passengers. “We stuck together tightly,” he said. “The militants threatened to shoot us, but we still refused and protected our brothers and sisters. Finally they gave up and left, but warned that they would be back.”
The Governor of Mandera County, where the bus was ambushed, Ali Roba, told the Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation that the passengers had shown “a sense of patriotism and belonging to each other”. Their bravery in standing up to the al-Shabab terrorists was also praised by the Interior Minister of Kenya, Joseph Nkaissery.
He said: “These Muslims sent a very important message of the unity of purpose, that we are all Kenyans and that we are not separated by religion. Everybody can profess their own religion, but we are still one country and one people.”
Al-Shabab has been known to separate out non-Muslims during terror attacks in the past. In April, it stormed Garissa University College, in north-eastern Kenya, and reportedly identified Christians among the students before shooting them, allowing Muslims to flee.
The group has been waging war against Kenya since 2011 when Kenyan soldiers crossed into Somalia in an attempt to defeat the militants who, at that time, controlled much of the country.