Muslim passengers onboard a bus courageously defied the commands of a terrorist group and protected their Christian counterparts from being ‘sacrificed’ during a deadly standoff in Kenya. When a group of 10 Al-Shabaab militants stormed into a bus last month, demanding Muslims separate from Christians, all the passengers refused to oblige and exchanged Islamic articles of clothing among themselves so that one religion could not be distinguished from the other.
Abdi Mohammed Abdi, a Muslim passenger onboard the bus during the recent attack, said that the militants stopped the bus by spraying it with gunfire and killing two in the process.
“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,” he said.
Julius Otieno, Deputy County Commissioner, confirmed Abdi’s account saying the militants were in fact trying to identify Muslims from non-Muslims, but the passengers refused to cooperate.
Al-Shabaab has been orchestrating such terror attacks since 2011. In 2014, Al-Shabaab militants, who function as Al Qaeda affiliates in east Africa, ambushed another bus in the same area killing as many as 28 non-Muslim passengers.
SInce the 2014 terror attack, buses traveling from Mandera are typically escorted by the police. But Charles Owino, spokesperson for Kenya police, said that is not what happened with this bus because it bypassed a police road block earlier in the day. He also confirmed that the attack led to the death of two individuals and wounded four others.
After the terror attack on December 21, Christian leaders in Kenya hailed the Muslim community for displaying such selflessness and bravery in the midst of yet another terror attack. After being told to either kill everyone aboard the bus or leave, the militants reportedly made a hurried exit. The gesture has united Muslims and Christians in the county that lies along Kenya’s border with Somalia.
“I think it’s an act of bravery for the Muslims who risked their lives to protect the Christians,” said Anglican Bishop Julius Kalu of Mombasa. “This is the true meaning of religion, and we congratulate them.”
Kalu explained true religion defends weaklings and protects the poor, while attributing the communal harmony between Muslims and Christians to recent campaigns that have been promoting peaceful religious coexistence.
Ali Roba, County Governor of Mandera, praised the Muslim passengers for reacting in the manner they deemed fit and protecting fellow Christian passengers from being massacred.
However, the terrorist group pledged to continue its attacks on Kenya until Nairobi decides to withdraw its troops from the African Union force that has been fighting Al-Shabaab in Somalia. It also demanded that northeastern Kenya be made part of Somalia. In previous attacks, Al-Shabaab has brazenly executed both Muslims and non-Muslims.
Photo Credits: The Telegraph