Passengers on board a bus bravely defied Islamic terrorists’ demands to sacrifice the Christians on board during a deadly standoff in Kenya.
When the 10 Al-Shabaab militants stormed the bus in the country’s north yesterday, they demanded Muslim passengers separate themselves from the Christians on board.
But the passengers refused – even giving some of their fellow travellers Islamic articles of clothing to wear so they could not be distinguished.
A year ago, Al-Shabaab gunmen – who operate as Al Qaeda’s affiliates in east Africa – stormed a Nairobi-bound bus in the same area and killed 28 non-Muslim passengers execution-style.
Abdi Mohamud Abdi, a Muslim who was among the passengers, said the terrorists stormed the bus after spraying it with gunfire, killing two.
He told Reuters: ‘We even gave some non-Muslims our religious attire to wear in the bus so that they would not be identified easily. We stuck together tightly.
‘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.’
In previous attacks, Al-Shabaab has often killed both Muslims and non-Muslims.
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.
However, Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, Al-Shabaab’s military spokesman, said the group had fired shots at the bus.
The militants did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the role of Muslim bus passengers during the attack.
The 2014 bus attack shocked Kenya and led to a shake-up of security ministers.
Since then, buses carrying passengers from Mandera have been given police escorts, but Kenya police spokesman Charles Owino said that had not happened in this case because the bus had bypassed a police roadblock.
He added that in addition to the two deaths, four people were wounded.
Al-Shabaab has said it will continue its attacks on Kenya until Nairobi withdraws troops from an African Union force fighting the militants in Somalia. It has also said northeastern Kenya should be part of Somalia.
Kenya’s long northeastern border with Somalia is widely considered a security weak spot.
Factors include poor coordination between security services, and a culture of corruption that allows anyone prepared to pay a bribe to pass unchallenged.