African Union soldiers on patrol in Somalia following a battle with Al-Shabaab militants, June 2016 (AMISOM/Ilyas Ahmed)

Four Kenyans – said to be “non-Muslims” – were killed last week (4 May) in an attack on a quarry in the northern town of Mandera. The authorities suspect the assailants were members of Islamist group Al-Shabaab.

Mandera borders Somalia, where Al-Shabaab is based, and was the site of the 2014 slaughter of 36 quarry workers by the group. All of those victims were believed to be Christian – many of them from the predominantly Christian south.

The victims of this latest attack, who were shot and hacked to death, are also believed to have been non-Muslims said the BBC.

“We cannot say for sure that those killed were dedicated Christians who had died for their faith in Christ – they probably weren’t,” said a spokesperson for the religious-freedom charity Open Doors International. “But they may have been targeted because they were non-locals (from down-Kenyan tribes) and therefore assumed to be Christians.”

A police source said there were 10 assailants, who “opened fire indiscriminately at the workers” in the quarry.

“The attack targeted non-locals and all those who died are not from here,” said police spokesman Charles Owino, who said security forces pursued the militants into Somalia.

The victims are thought to have defied government orders to vacate the area because of an expected attack by Al-Shabaab, reported Kenya’s Citizen TV.