Somalia’s Shabab Islamists have ambushed a bus in Kenya and executed 28 non-Muslim passengers in what they say is revenge for police raids on mosques in the troubled port of Mombasa.
“I can confirm … that 28 innocent travellers were brutally executed by the Shabab,” regional police chief Noah Mwavinda told AFP.
The bus, which was headed for the capital Nairobi, was ambushed on Saturday shortly after departing from Mandera, a town on the border with Somalia in Kenya’s northeast.
Some 60 passengers on board were ordered off the vehicle, and the gunmen separated the travellers into Muslims and non-Muslims.
The militants then had the non-Muslims reboard the bus and tried to drive off with them, but the vehicle got stuck.
“So they executed their prisoners” before escaping back into Somalia, Mwavinda said.
A Shabab spokesman said the deadly attack was in revenge for raids this week on four Mombasa mosques that hiked simmering tensions in the city.
“The Mujahedeen successfully carried out an operation near Mandera early this morning, which resulted in the perishing of 28 crusaders, as a revenge for the crimes committed by the Kenyan crusaders against our Muslim brethren in Mombasa,” Ali Mohamud Rage said in a statement sent to AFP.
Police closed the four mosques in Mombasa, a largely Muslim city, on the grounds they had come under the influence of hardliners.
A 25-year-old passenger on the bus, who asked to be identified only as Ibrahim, told AFP that the vehicle came under fire several times after leaving Mandera, leaving one passenger dead.
The driver was finally forced to stop by the group of around 70 assailants, he said.
Ibrahim said the passengers were divided into Muslim and non-Muslim groups and he witnessed the execution of two non-Muslim passengers, who were shot in the head.
Kenya has suffered a series of attacks since invading Somalia in 2011 to attack the Shabab, later joining an African Union force battling the Islamists.
The Shabab carried out the September 2013 attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall, killing at least 67 people, as a warning to Kenya to pull its troops out of southern Somalia.