Muslims Defend Christians During al-Shabab Militant Attack in Kenya

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Muslim passengers defended Christian passengers when members of the al-Shabab militant group attempted an attack on December 21. Above, rescue workers walk near a Nairobi-bound bus that was ambushed outside Mandera town, near Kenya's border with Somalia and Ethiopia, November 22, 2014. Reuters

Muslim passengers defended Christian passengers during an extremist attack on a bus in Kenya on Monday.

Members of the al-Shabab militant organization shot at a bus in Mandera, Kenya, forcing it to stop. Once the militants boarded the bus, they attempted to separate Muslim and Christian passengers, intending to kill the Christians on board, the BBC reported.

“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," Abdi Mohamud Abdi, a Muslim passenger, told Reuters. "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 local governor. Ali Roba, confirmed the account in an interview with Daily Nation, a Kenyan publication. “They refused to separate from non-Muslims and told the attacks to kill all passengers or leave,” Roba said. There were 62 passengers on board, according to the paper.

Even though the passengers stuck together so well, two people were killed and three were injured. Abdirashid Adan was hit by a bullet as militants shot at the bus; he was treated at Mandera County Referral Hospital, the Nation reported. The other victims were not identified by authorities, referred to only as a driver and two passengers.

A spokesman for the militant group, Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, told Reuters the militants had succeeded in killing “some of the Christian enemies” and boasted that others were injured. Despite his claims, authorities did not confirm whether the victims were Christian or Muslim. When asked about the Muslim passengers defending the Christian passengers, Musab did not reply.

Al-Shabab has previously targeted Christians in a similar fashion. During an April attack at the Garissa University College in Garissa, Kenya, militants killed 148, asking many their religion before opening fire. Many of those victims were Christian, the BBC reported.

Another such attack was reported in December 2014, when militants killed 28 non-Muslims on a bus. The bus passengers were mostly teachers traveling to Nairobi.  

According to the National Counterterrorism Center, al-Shabab is “predominantly interested in the nationalistic battle against the Somali Federal Government and not supportive of global jihad.” Some of its leaders have worked with Al-Qaeda. Its most well-known act was a 2013 attack on the Westgate Mall, where 67 were killed in Nairobi.

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