By Sarah Mac Donald - 23 December, 2015
On Monday, al-Shabab claimed it had carried out an attack on a bus near Mandera in northwest Kenya, which is located close to the Somali border.
The attack left one person dead and two injured.
However, the toll could have been much higher.
After initially spraying the bus with gunfire, the ten heavily armed Islamists boarded the bus and ordered Muslim passengers to help them identify any Christians on board.
They ordered the passengers off the bus and told them to divide into Muslims and Christians. They planned to kill the Christians.
However, the Muslims on the bus refused to separate themselves from their fellow passengers.
According to local governor Ali Roba, “They told the militants to kill them together or leave them alone… The locals showed a sense of patriotism and belonging to each other,” he said.
Christian leaders in Kenya have hailed the Muslims for their bravery and selflessness.
“I think it’s an act of bravery for the Muslims who risked their lives to protect the Christians,” Anglican Bishop Julius Kalu of Mombasa said. “This is the true meaning of religion, and we congratulate them.”
Kalu said true religion protects neighbours and defends the weak and the poor. He attributed the development to the recent campaigns around peaceful religious coexistence.
Catholic Bishop Joseph Alessandro of Garissa said it was a positive gesture. “It shows that local Muslims do not support the Islamists’ violence. Now al-Shabab knows they have no support.”
Ali Hassan Joho, Mombasa’s governor, tweeted: “They demonstrated to the world that Islam stands for peace. This selfless act strengthens harmonious and tolerant relations.”
Sheikh Abdullahi Salat, chairman of the Garissa County Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, said Muslims in Kenya oppose al-Shabab.
“We have often stressed that we don’t support the militants. We have insisted we have no problem with our Christian brothers. This confirms it,” Sheikh Salat said.
Al-Shabab has launched a series of attacks in Kenya since 2011, when the country’s army entered Somalia to fight the militants.
In 2013, the group attacked the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, killing 67.
At least 48 people were killed in Mpeketoni in 2014 after militants attacked villages and a town centre.
Later that year, the militants killed 28 people, mainly Christian teachers traveling on a bus in Mandera county. Weeks later, the group killed 36 non-Muslim quarry workers.
But the largest recent attack was in April 2015, when group massacred 148 mostly Christian students at Garissa University College.