NAIROBI, Kenya, (Morning Star News) – Two weeks after Somalia-based Islamic extremists attacked a Nairobi shopping mall, Kenya saw another pocket of its territory turned into a battle zone on Friday (Oct. 4).
Responding to the shooting death on Thursday night (Oct. 3) of hard-line sheikh Ibrahim Omar and three others, Muslim youths from the Masjid Musa Mosque shouting “Allahu Akbar [God is Greater]” set fire to the Salvation Army Church building the following afternoon in the Majengo area on the outskirts of the coastal city of Mombasa, sources said.
Christians in Mombasa were still tense today, they said.
“The incident of burning the Salvation Army church is aimed at creating a religious conflict between the Christians and the Muslims,” Peter Karanja, general secretary of the National Christian Council of Kenya (NCCK), said in a press statement.
In the police response to the rampaging Muslim youths, including officers’ efforts to stop them from attacking a Pentecostal church in Mombasa, four people were reportedly killed and several others wounded.
Muslim leaders accused police of killing hard-line imam Omar as part of a campaign against Islamists following authorities’ much-criticized handling of the Sept. 21 assault on the Westgate Shopping Mall by members of the Islamic extremist Al Shabaab rebel militia. Omar was a student of sheikh Aboud Rogo, also mysteriously killed in his vehicle on the same road in August 2012, who had been accused of aiding in recruitment and funding for Al Shabaab.
At the Musa Mosque, some 200 meters from the partially burned Salvation Army Church building, Omar regularly “issued incendiary sermons against non-Muslims,” The Standard newspaper reported. According to Kenya’s National Intelligence Service, the imam had invited jihadists from Somalia to bomb targets in Nairobi and Mombasa in retaliation for the killing of Rogo, the newspaper reported.
“The Muslims living at the coastal area of Kenya do not want to see the existence of churches, and on many occasion they see this region not to be part of Kenya,” an area pastor told Morning Star News. “To them, the coastal region should be treated as an independent Islamic state.”
He added that the Majengo area is a hub of Islamic extremist activity. The same Salvation Army Church building was set ablaze last year in response to the killing of Rogo.
“We as the church living in the coastal region of Kenya have witnessed many times the church becoming a scapegoat for the Muslims as they release their anger,” another pastor told Morning Star News. “What has the church to do with the police killing the Muslim sheikh? Christians will not be cowed by this mayhem.”
Al Shabaab, which has joined with Al Qaeda, has recently come under the control of a faction that emphasizes international terrorist strikes rather than limiting activity to taking over Somalia, according to Robin Simcox of the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based think tank.
“Losing territory in areas such as Kismayo and Mogadishu has allowed Al Shabaab to focus more on perpetrating traditional terrorist attacks instead of having to control territory,” Simcox recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal. “In other words, the factors that give the impression that Al Shabaab is in turmoil are making the group even more dangerous. Turmoil has made it lash out.”
U.S. Navy Seals on Friday (Oct. 4) took part in a raid on the Somali coastal home of a Kenyan national who is an Al Shabaab leader, according to the The Associated Press. There were casualties among the Al Shabaab, but the targeted leader escaped. He was identified as Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, a Kenyan who had planned attacks on Kenya’s parliament building and United Nations offices in Nairobi that were foiled.
The Al Shabaab attack on the upscale Westgate mall in Nairobi on Sept. 21 killed at least 67 people, with dozens still unaccounted for, according to authorities’ latest figures. Among those who escaped was a Christian accounts clerk named Joshua Hakim, according to an extensive account of the protracted stand-off in The Guardian.
Before an Israeli helped Hakim and at least a dozen others to escape through a third-floor fire escape, Hakim had repeated “Jesus is Lord” as he heard shots above and below him while on the interior balcony of the first floor, according to the Guardian account. He heard two armed men say in English, “Muslims, get out of here!”
Eventually Hakim approached one of the gunmen and showed him his voter card, covering his Christian name with his thumb, and the militant shouted at him to leave.
“An older man, of Indian origin, approached and was asked to name the mother of the prophet,” the Guardian reported. “When he hesitated, he was shot.”
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