The Somali Islamist militant group al Shabaab said it had staged an attack in Kenya Saturday in which gunmen ordered non-Muslims off a bus and shot 28 dead, while sparing Muslim passengers.
Three of the group led out to be killed saved their lives by reciting verses of the Koran for the militants, a local security official said.
Al Shabaab said its men had ambushed the Nairobi-bound bus outside the town of Mandera, near Kenya’s border with Somalia and Ethiopia, and killed the non-Muslims in retaliation for raids on mosques in the city of Mombasa.
On Monday, police in the port city shot dead one man and arrested almost 400 others when they raided four mosques that they said were being used to recruit militants and stash weapons.
“The Mujahideen successfully carried out an operation near Mandera early this morning, which resulted in 28 crusaders perishing, as revenge for the crimes committed by the Kenyan crusaders against our Muslim brethren in Mombasa,” Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, al Shabaab’s spokesman, said in a statement.
Many Islamist militants use the term “crusaders” to describe Christians or non-Muslims in general.
Police Inspector General David Kimaiyo said 19 men and nine women had been killed. “Preliminary reports indicate that the attackers, who were heavily armed, later fled towards the border into Somali,” he told reporters.
A witness, who asked not to be identified, said the attackers had boarded the bus and tried to identify Muslims and non-Muslims.
Ahmed Maalim, an official at the Mandera East sub-county security force, said the attackers had ordered passengers thought to be non-Muslims out of the bus. Three were spared after reciting Koranic verses and ordered back on the bus.