Two Christians are reported to be among three people killed after suspected al-Shabaab militants attacked a bus in Kenya on Wednesday morning.
Haji Abass, the owner of the Kenya-based Moyale Raha bus company, told The Associated Press that fighters suspected to be aligned with the Somalia-based group attacked the bus while it was carrying passengers to the capital of Nairobi from a market town near the Ethiopian and Somalian borders.
Abass said that the militants were in police uniform and tried to flag down the bus. However, the bus driver kept on going because he knew there were no police stops along the route.
At that point, the militants shot at the bus, flattened the back tires and injured the driver.
After the bus went into a ditch, militants allegedly pulled the passengers out and killed two non-Muslims and one Muslim. Two others were injured.
International Christian Concern, a United States-based advocacy organization, reports that the two non-Muslims killed in the attack were Christian men named Peter Kilnozo Musili and Kevin Onyango.
According to ICC, which confirmed the attack through a security officer based in northeast Kenya, the two men were executed because they could not recite the Islamic declaration of faith, the Shahada.
The Muslim man who was killed was named by ICC as Abdi Abinoor. ICC reports that Abinoor was killed for trying to protect the Christians.
The security officer told the nonprofit that the attack occurred in the town of Banisa in Mandera County, an area of Kenya near the Somali border with a large Somali ethnic population.
The officer said that the bus was carrying 47 passengers.
“They sprayed it with bullets and deflated the tires in order to halt it and pick Christians from the bus,” the security officer was quoted as saying. “The efforts of the driver to escape from their trap did not bear fruit. He was also injured during the attack. Three people were killed and two others injured.”
Al-Shabaab (aligned with al-Qaeda) has a history of conducting attacks on buses in which militants separate non-Muslims for execution.
On Dec. 6, 2019, al-Shabaab killed 11 Christians when militants attacked a bus traveling from Nairobi to Mandera in Wajir County.
A source who spoke to Morning Star News about the attack explained that 56 people were on board when assailants separated 11 Kenyan Christian workers from the ethnic Somali passengers on the bus.
Just last month, three Christian teachers were murdered when suspected al-Shabaab militants attacked a school and a police post in the town of Kamuthe in Garissa County.
ICC reported at the time that the three deceased instructors were Caleb Mutua, Titus Ushindi, and Samuel Muthui Kyonzu.
Kenya ranks as the 44th-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2020 World Watch List.
Al-Shabaab has fought for years to overthrow the Somali government. The group has been responsible for attacks on both sides of the Somalia and Kenya border as it has long vowed to retaliate against Kenya for sending in troops to Somalia to fight the group.
In April 2015, al-Shabaab carried out one of its deadliest attacks when it stormed the campus of Garissa University. On that occasion, militants were said to have separated Muslims from non-Muslims and proceeded to execute all non-Muslim students. At least 148 people were killed in the attack.
Al-Shabaab’s control over parts of Somalia has troubled government and international actors looking to exterminate locusts amid the infestation outbreak that has impacted several East African countries in recent months.
“Even if spraying is done by light aircraft and manually by people moving, that's not going to happen in those areas [controlled by Al-Shabaab],” Joseph Kamara, the regional director for humanitarian and emergency affairs in East Africa for World Vision, told The Christian Post.
“This means those areas will continue breeding them. That is likely to remain a challenge for the rest of the region.”
Somalia ranks as the third-worst country in the world for Christian persecution on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List due to civil war, al-Shabaab’s militant insurgency and tribalism.
“The violent Islamic terrorist group, Al-Shabaab, advocates Shariah law as the basis for regulating all aspects of life in Somalia,” an Open Doors fact sheet reads. “This group has repeatedly expressed its desire to eradicate Christians from the country.”