A Muslim man who shielded Christians after a passenger bus was ambushed by suspected al-Shabab militants is being saluted as a symbol of unity. Salah Farah, a schoolteacher, died Jan.18 in Nairobi, where he was airlifted after being shot in the arm and hip when he resisted militant demands that he identify Christians on the bus during the December attack.
Christian leaders have hailed as an act of bravery and selflessness the shielding of some Christians by Muslims after suspected al-Shabab gunmen in Mandera County ambushed a passenger bus.
Kenya has welcomed the return of 700 citizens who had joined Somalia’s al-Shabab militant group that has attacked churches, malls, and government institutions, most notably Garissa University College where nearly 150 people — mostly Christian students — were killed last spring.
The return of the Kenya nationals was reported by the Kenyan government, the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, and the International Organization for Migration.
“They will undergo rehabilitation, before being re-integrated into the community,” said Hassan Ole Naado, deputy general of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims.
Sitting under a veranda at the former headquarters of Somali Airlines, Ali Bashir sipped coffee and chewed khat, an African herb, as he recounted 15 years of anarchy fomented by al-Shabab Islamic terrorists.
“Life is very hard here,” he lamented.
“There’s nothing to eat and nowhere to work. But the rebels will come and still ask you for money.”
Since Somalia’s central government collapsed in the early 1990s, al-Shabab has emerged as the greatest threat to international efforts to rebuild the east African nation. The al-Qaida-linked militants extort, kidnap, stage terror attacks, and control remote areas of the countryside.
Al-Shabab gained renewed global attention last week, when a small band of militants massacred 148 people at Garissa University College in neighboring Kenya, where they singled out Christians for execution. In 2013, al-Shabab terrorists attacked the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, murdering nearly 70.
In the wake of this month’s attack, Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud called for more cooperation between Kenya and Somalia to eliminate al-Shabab, and Kenyan jets pounded two al-Shabab camps in Somalia.
Bashir, 28, who sold clothing before fleeing here, doubted the Somali government could do much about the terrorist group. He fled to the capital here a few years ago after al-Shabab seized control of a region in the south. He now lives in the old airlines headquarters with 1,000 other families.
“I have grown up in this country without knowing peace or stability,” said Bashir, a father of six.
Faced with a fierce enemy driven by Muslim extremist ideology, the government has cracked down on funding for al-Shabab, the Somali group that claimed responsibility for killing 148 mostly Christian students at Garissa University College a week ago.
This week, Kenya froze the accounts of 85 groups and individuals, including bus companies and Muslim rights organizations, allegedly linked to the group. It has closed down one hotel in Eastleigh, a neighborhood in the Nairobi commonly known as Little Mogadishu because of its large concentration of ethnic Somalis.
But the freeze on Muslims for Human Rights and Haki Africa, two nongovernmental organizations, raised questions, since they are known for their work on improving the lives of Kenyans and fighting for human rights of all citizens.
“I am amazed that these human rights organizations are believed to have been supporting terror,” said Sheikh Juma Ngao, the national chairman of the Kenya Muslim National Advisory Council.
“I think the government needs to provide some evidence.”
Last week, al-Shabab militants, aligned with al-Qaida, stormed the campus of Garissa University College in Kenya, asking students about their religion. They spared the lives of Muslims and killed the Christians. By the time the mayhem was over, almost 150 students lay dead.
A spokesmen for the terrorists boasted: “There are many dead bodies of Christians inside the building. We are also holding many Christians alive.”
This is not the first time that this has happened in Kenya. In 2013, at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, 67 people were killed in cold blood. Muslims were allowed to go free.
The dead were all Christians.
In Libya in February, Islamic State militants beheaded 21 men on the beach. Their blood freely flowed into the Mediterranean Sea.
The victims were all Coptic Christians.
The Middle East contains proud remnants of the oldest Christian communities in the world. Their churches have been in flames. ISIS has demanded that the Christians convert to Islam, pay extra taxes or be killed. In Syria in February, ISIS militants abducted scores of Assyrian Christians.
Just because they are Christian.
The Pentagon on Sept. 5 confirmed that the leader of al-Shabab, an al-Qaida-linked organization in Africa, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Somalia this week.
The leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, was targeted Sept. 1 in an airstrike that hit a vehicle and compound in a militant stronghold south of the capital, Mogadishu.
Al-Shabab has been linked to a number of attacks in Africa, including the bloody siege at the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2013 that killed 67 people.
“Removing Godane from the battlefield is a major symbolic and operational loss to al-Shabab,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.
At the time of the strike, the Pentagon said it could not confirm Godane’s death.
The deadly mall attack in Kenya on Saturday is a sign that the al-Qaida-affiliated group that carried it out has been dealt a blow in Somalia and they are looking to generate headlines with more high-profile attacks in the region, a regional expert says.
The militant group that carried out the attack, al-Shabab, wants to establish an Islamist government in Somalia.
In recent years, however, African Union troops in Somalia have driven the militants out of most parts of the capital city of Mogadishu as a U.S.-supported government there has attempted to establish control over the country. At one time, al-Shabab controlled parts of Mogadishu.
The attack in Nairobi underscores al-Shabab’s organizational skills and their commitment to die for a cause, said David Shinn, a former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and a professor at George Washington University.
But it also highlights that the group has to rely on high-profile terrorist attacks that generate headlines because they lack popular support and have failed in any direct fights with African Union forces in Somalia.
“Increasingly, al-Shabab has alienated the average Somali,” Shinn said.