In yet another assault on Christians in north-eastern Kenya, suspected militants from the Somalia-based al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabaab killed two people and abducted another in two separate attacks this week, The Christian Post reports.
The militants ambushed a passenger bus on the road between Elwak and Mandera near the Jabi-bar area Wednesday and asked all of the passengers to disembark before identifying non-Muslims, according to the U.S.-based persecution watchdog group International Christian Concern.
The suspected member of Al-Shabaab then abducted a Christian. While Kenyan forces pursue the attackers, the status of the abducted Christian remains unknown. This region has become a common location for the terror group to conduct attacks, in which they target non-local Christians.
While speaking with ICC, a Mandera security officer confirmed, “The attackers were looking for non-local passengers traveling from Nairobi in order to kill them. The current trend of terror activity in Mandera confirms that. They abducted the only Christian on the bus, the mechanic, and allowed the others to continue with their journey.”
An hour later, two non-local medical transporters were killed and their truck was burned in the same location near the porous Kenya-Somalia border. The deceased were ferrying medicines.
“The driver and turn boy who are both non-locals were taken away. It was later reported that the lorry has been burnt down to ashes,” Mandera’s Governor said in a statement.
“Al-Shabaab is following through with its threat to target and attack non-local Christians,” Nathan Johnson, ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, said.
“They have increased this type of attack greatly already this year. If this continues, 2020 could be one of the deadliest for Kenyan Christians in recent history. Though I commend the Kenyan government for taking this situation seriously, they must figure out a better way to stop these attacks before dozens more Christians are killed.”
Late last month, al-Shabaab “ordered” Christians to leave three counties in north-eastern Kenya to allow local Muslims to get all local jobs.
“Muslim teachers, doctors, engineers, and young graduates from the northeastern province are unemployed. Isn’t it better to give them a chance? There is no need for the presence of disbelievers,” al-Shabaab’s spokesman, Sheikh Ali Dhere, said in an audio clip posted online, referring to the counties of Garissa, Wajir and Mandera.
In the 20-minute clip, the spokesman urged Somali-Kenyans to drive all non-Muslims out if they do not leave on their own. The majority of the people living in the three counties are Somalis, who fled to Kenya due to war and violence in Somalia.
This attack comes at a time when Kenya and Somalia are engaged in a border dispute after a war involving the Somali forces and the semi-autonomous region of Jubbaland forces spilled over to Mandera. Christians are worried that, unless security is heightened, they will continue to be targeted.
A pastor in Mandera said, “Over the last two weeks, we have been living in fear because of the insecurity posed by the two forces from Somalia who are seen in town on military cars. We are not quite sure if they are forces or militants. We ask for prayers of protection over Christians in northeastern Kenya.”
Kenya has witnessed six terror attacks targeting vehicles in the last four months, leading to the deaths of 21 Christians. On December 6, 2019, 11 non-local individuals were killed when al-Shabaab attacked a passenger bus in Wajir. In total, 10 Christians have been killed in the region from different terror activities in 2020 alone.
Last month, two Christians were reported to be among three people killed after suspected al-Shabaab militants attacked a bus carrying passengers to the capital of Nairobi from a market town near the Ethiopian and Somalian borders.
In January, three Christian teachers were murdered in the town of Kamuthe in Garissa County during an attack on a primary school believed to have been carried out by al-Shabaab.
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.
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.