In Kenya Attack, Terrorists Kill 28 Who Could Not Answer Questions on Islam

By Patrick Goodenough | November 24, 2014 | 4:18am EST

The bodies of some of the victims lie in a line on the ground, at the location of an attack on a bus about 31 miles outside the town of Mandera, near the Somali border in northeastern Kenya, Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014.  (AP Photo)

( – Al-Shabaab terrorists who killed 28 people on a bus in northern Kenya selected their victims by quizzing passenger to determine if they were Muslims, then shot dead those who were unable to answer satisfactorily, officials and eyewitnesses said Sunday.

After firing at and shooting a rocket-propelled grenade at the Nairobi-bound vehicle to stop it, the terrorists ordered the 59 passengers, many of them school teachers and health workers heading home for the Christmas holidays, to alight and began to question them.

“They asked how many times I pray in a day, asked me to recite a Qur’an verse and also greeted one in Islamic,” one of the survivors of the Saturday pre-dawn attack told Kenya’s Daily Nation. “If one failed to answer these questions, then you’d be asked to lie on a muddy patch of the road facing down.”

Identification cards and mobile phones belonging to non-Muslims were confiscated. Muslim passengers were told to return to the bus before those lying on the road were shot.

“They blew off their heads. Just like that,” the passenger was quoted as saying. Afterwards, the gunmen had fired their weapons in the air “in jubilation.”

One of those in the targeted group managed to survive. Reuters reported that primary school teacher Douglas Ochwodo told reporters on Sunday two terrorists began shooting, one from each end, moving towards the center, where he lay. Each evidently thought the other had shot him, so neither did. He lay absolutely still until they had left.

(Ochwodo’s brother told reporters that he had been splattered with blood from nearby victims, which possibly added to the impression that he was dead.)

Ochwodo also related that the terrorists selected their victims by checking their faith, specifically ordering them to say the shahada. (“There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger.”)

Kenyan media said 19 men and nine women were killed, and that the victims included seven teachers from the same primary school and 10 members – half of the entire congregation – of a small Adventist Church.

About 11 percent of Kenyans are Muslims, mostly living in the northern and coastal areas.

The bus targeted by the terrorists belonged to the Makka (Mecca) Travels company, and the bodywork carried a large picture of a mosque and minarets, images of crescent moons and other Islamic symbols.

The Somalia-based al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab in a statement claimed responsibility for the attack – which took place near the Kenya-Somalia border, describing the victims as “crusaders.”

It said the attack was in retaliation for police raids last week on mosques in Mombasa, a heavily-Muslim coastal city. The Kenyan government says the mosques were raided after radicals expelled moderate clerics, and that weapons had been found. Al-Shabaab said the mosques had been “desecrated.”

Deputy President William Ruto told reporters on Sunday that security force jets and helicopters had attacked a camp in Somalia linked to the perpetrators of the bus massacre, killing as many as 100 terrorists.

“We shall continue to deal with all the terrorists and bandits in the same way because it is the only language they understand,” he said. “If you kill any Kenyan you will also be killed.”

Ruto said the Mombasa mosque raids had “confirmed the nation’s worst fears – that the houses of worship had been converted into armories where guns, grenades and bomb-making materials, crude weapons including machetes and knives, radicalized propaganda literature and al-Shabaab insignia, including flags – not holy books and manuals for guidance unto light – were stored.”

Speaking at an Anglican Church service north of Nairobi earlier Sunday, Ruto appealed to religious leaders to be vigilant.

“I urge religious leaders to ensure that no place of worship is used for criminal activities, no church or mosque should be used as an armory for storing grenades and guns or as a pulpit for preaching death against other Kenyans,” he said.

Kenyan troops have been deployed in Somalia since late 2011, when they were sent in after al-Shabaab fighters crossed into Kenya to kidnap and kill foreign aid workers and tourists. The Kenyans are now part of a larger African Union peacekeeping force.

Since the troops entered Somalia, Kenya has suffered more than 130 terror incidents of varying magnitude, including attacks targeting churches and an September 2013 assault and four-day hostage crisis at a Nairobi shopping mall which cost 67 lives.

Eyewitnesses who managed to escape from the mall during the episode told similar stories to those emerging from the bus attack – that the terrorists had tried to identify non-Muslims by demanding that people answer questions about Islam – specifically to name Mohammed’s mother – or to recite the shahada. Those unable to do so were shot.

The worst terrorist attack in Kenya’s history was al-Qaeda’s 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, along with the U.S. Embassy in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. A total of 224 people, including 12 Americans, were killed.

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