By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
NAIROBI (Worthy News) - Kenyan authorities say they are pursuing suspected Islamic militants who reportedly killed six Christians in southeastern Kenya.
Fighters of the al-Shabab terror group attacked and murdered the villagers early Monday, January 3, in the Lamu County’s Widhu area on the border with Somalia, Christians said.
Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia
confirmed that security forces pursued the suspects into the forest. Residents said the attackers may have been a mix of al-Shabab fighters and other extremists.
Macharia claimed the militants might be hiding among the population and sought the public’s help to trace the criminals.
Residents said at least one victim was shot, one was hacked with a machete, and others were burned alive.
Militants attacked Christian coconut tree seller, Francis Kaburi, forcing him down from one of his trees at 7 a.m. on Sunday, January 2, said Joyce Wanjiru, the wife of one of the slain Christians.
FRIGHTENING PHONE CALL
She said her husband, Joseph Mwangi Maina, received a phone call from Kaburi at 1 a.m. on Monday, January 3, saying Muslims had abducted him.
Kaburi reportedly added that Islamic militants were also holding three Christians inside the shop of John Murimi in Widho.
Murimi, Peter Maingi, and Peter Musyoka met for prayer at the shop when the militants captured them.
“Then the call ended,” Wanjiru told Christian news agency Morning Star News. “The shop was then torched, and the three died inside there.”
At 2 a.m., the assailants arrived at Mwangi Maina’s house, his wife Wanjiru recalled. “Kaburi called to my husband to get out of the house,” she was quoted as saying. “He then opened the door and went out.”
Speaking in the Somali language and the Kiswahili common in Kenya, the assailants questioned her husband, Mwangi Maina, accusing him of refusing to return to Islam, she said. A non-Somali who had been raised a Christian in Kenya, Mwangi Maina converted to Islam seven years ago but returned to the Christian faith two years later, she added.
NOT DENYING CHRIST
“They were accusing him of refusing to become a Muslim and hence being an enemy propagating bad religion,” Wanjiru said. “Soon, he was pleading with them not to kill him, and after that, there was groaning and screaming from my husband. The children started crying very loudly, and the attackers forced us to come out of the house.”
Her children, ages 15, 12, 10, and 4, fled as the Muslim extremists set their house on fire, she said. Neighbors from Wanjiru’s tribe, Kikuyu, and her dialect arrived as the assailants left with Kaburi.
“My husband had just been beheaded and the head placed on his back,” Wanjiru was quoted as saying by Morning Star News.
From there, the assailants went to the house of Murimi, the Kenyan Christian not of Somali descent who had died in the fire set at his shop. Finding Murimi’s wife, Grace Wanjiru, and four children, ages 12, 10, 8, and 2, the assailants forced them out and set their house ablaze, sources said.
The attackers proceeded to the house of another non-Somali Christian, Maina Jigi. Area residents said that at about 2:30 a.m., the Muslim extremists set his home on fire, burning Jigi to death.
Arriving next at Kaburi’s house, the assailants found his family members had fled, Joyce Wanjiru reportedly said.
FIRE AT HOUSE
“Around 3 a.m., fire was seen around Kaburi’s house,” she added. “We went to the police post in Widho, and the following day the body of Kaburi was found burnt beyond recognition inside his house.”
Mwangi Maina and Murimi were members of the Redeemed Gospel Church. The other four Christians killed were members of the Pentecostal Evangelical Fellowship of Africa, sources said.
All Kaburi’s property, including his motorcycle, was destroyed, a Morning Star News reporter and a security guard found when visiting the area.
Residents said only Christians were targeted in the attacks.
Among five houses set ablaze, one belonged to a Muslim friendly to Christians. The other properties belonged to Christians, and only Christians were killed, residents added.
Local Muslims were reportedly warned ahead of the attack and managed to leave in time.
Christian families who lost their loved ones “are traumatized, homeless, without food and clothes, including school uniforms,” said Christians, who urged prayers.
URGING MORE SECURITY
Christians also asked Kenya’s government to increase security in the troubled region.
The coastal region of Kenya, especially Lamu, is mainly Muslim, and “extremists seek to make it an independent Islamic zone,” Christians said.
That the assailants were suspected of being a mix of al-Shabab and local Muslim extremists was seen as a sign to area Christians to remain alert.
In June 2014, more than 60 people were killed in attacks in and near the Mpeketoni area. The Somalia-based al-Shabab terror group claimed responsibility dit the violence.
Along with attacks on non-Muslims on Kenya’s coast, rebels from al-Shabab, linked to al-Qaida, reportedly launched several attacks in Kenya. The violence intensified since Kenyan forces led an African coalition into neighboring Somalia against the rebels in October 2011.
The coalition arrived in response to terrorist attacks on tourists and others on Kenya’s coast.
MUSLIMS BY BIRTH
Somalis generally believe all Somalis are Muslims by birth and that any Somali who becomes a Christian can be charged with apostasy, punishable by death, experts say.
Somalia’s constitution establishes Islam as the state religion and prohibits the propagation of any other religion, according to the U.S. State Department.
It also requires that laws comply with sharia (Islamic law) principles, with no exceptions in the application for non-Muslims.
Kenya ranked 49th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List of 50 nations where it is most difficult to be a Christian. Somalia ranked 3rd.
Besides the attack on Christians, al-Shahab was also linked to other recent attacks on villages and public transport.
Last Saturday, a man riding a motorcycle was reportedly killed when he ran over a roadside bomb in the Kiunga area of Lamu, on the border with Somalia, near the Indian Ocean coast.
Kenyan security officials reportedly blamed al-Shabab for setting off the explosives.