Two people were killed for failing to recite the Islamic statement of faith when militants, believed to belong to the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab, attacked their bus in eastern Kenya on Friday, 14 September.
Seven men stopped the bus while it was on its way to Garissa, between the towns of Iljara and Sangailu, and ordered passengers to show their IDs, a witness told local newspaper The Standard.
They then picked three passengers and “asked [them] to recite the Shahada [Islamic prayer of faith] and the seven verses of Suratul Fatiha [first chapter of the Quran],” the witness, a teacher, said.
Two of the three men were unable to do so and were executed on the spot.
One of the victims, Fredrick Ngui, in his late 20s, attended the East Africa Pentecostal Church in Masalini, where he served as the worship leader, a local source told World Watch Monitor.
He had gone to a town called Hulugho for a two-week work stint and was on his way back home at the time of the attack. He leaves behind a wife and two children. His funeral is planned for later this week in his hometown in Kitui County.
After they killed Ngui and another man, known only as Okoth, who was working on the bus, the suspects fled into the bush.
Security forces “embarked on a ground and aerial operation to comb the forest for the militants’ arrest”, the government’s regional commissioner, Mohamed Birik, told The Standard.
Al-Shabaab, an affiliate of Al-Qaeda, has targeted Kenyan Christians for years, attacking churches, public places and buses, especially in coastal areas and along the border with Somalia, where Al-Shabaab originated. They have left behind a trail of pain and destruction, and instilled fear among Christians in regions where they are the minority.
World Watch Monitor reported in August last year how the militants and their sympathisers are “deeply embedded” in the coastal areas of Lamu and Tana.
In December 2015 at least two people were killed in an attack by Islamist gunmen on the bus they were travelling on between Nairobi and Mandera in the northeast. A short film about the attack, during which Kenyan Muslims protected Christians, was nominated for an Oscar in January.
In one of the most violent attacks in the region, Al-Shabaab militants stormed the university campus in Garissa in April 2015 and slaughtered 147 students. Christians were singled out and killed.