On Monday, December 21, a group of Al-Shabaab rebels from Somalia attacked a bus in the northern Mandera County of Kenya. The bus was travelling from the capital city, Nairobi, with an estimated 60 passengers. It was just outside of the city of El Wak when the Islamic militants shot the windshield of the bus.
Many passengers recalled a similar event that occurred a year earlier on November 22, 2014, when Al-Shabaab gunmen attacked a bus of teachers travelling in the same region shooting 28 non-Muslims point blank. With this in mind, some Muslim passengers gave non-Muslims their head scarves to conceal their identities.
A gunman entered the bus and demanded everyone to exit and form two groups of Muslims and non-Muslims. One non-Muslim passenger decided to flee, but was shot in the back and killed. Several non-Muslims grouped together with the Muslims so the gunmen could not differentiate them.
“We gave some non-Muslims our religious attire to wear in the bus so that they would not be identified easily. We stuck together tightly,” says Abdi Mohamud Abdi, a Muslim passenger. “The militants threatened to shoot us, but we still refused and protected our brothers and sisters.”
The county general, Roba, told the Star, a Kenyan daily newspaper, “The locals showed a sense of patriotism and belonging to each other. They insisted that Al-Shabaab either kill them together or leave them alone”. Some of the Muslim passengers were injured trying to protect the non-Muslim passengers, but continued to bravely stand united.
A Muslim passenger fooled the militants by insisting a truck full of police officers escorting the bus was not far behind. The lie prompted the attackers to send everyone back on the bus and the bus continued on.
The militants also seized a truck that was behind the bus and killed the driver after he failed to recite Islamic Shahada. In this invasion two people died and three were injured. Those injured were the driver of the bus and two passengers.
Kenya has experienced frequent attacks by Al-Shabaab since it sent troops to Somalia to fight extremists in 2011. Kenya’s northeastern border with Somalia is considered a security weak spot, which is often where the Al-Shabab extremists from Somalia enter the country.
Although the passengers on the bus faced a terrifying situation, they stood together bravely and let their love and respect for all people overcome their fears.
“These Muslims sent a very important message of the unity of purpose; that we are all Kenyans and that we are not separated by religion,” says Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery, “Everybody can profess their own religion, but we are still one country and one people”.
The Muslim passengers on the bus did not separate from the non-Muslims because of their religion, but rather risked their lives to protect those people, bravely standing up to the dangerous gunmen. These passengers demonstrated a powerful message of peace by showing that we are all humans no matter our differences, and should always love and respect each other.
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