By BosNewsLife Africa Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
NAIROBI, KENYA (BosNewsLife)– Two people were killed when suspected Islamic militants attacked a church in eastern Kenya, adding to concerns about increased violence against devoted Christians in the African nation, police and church members said Sunday, November 6.
Kenyan police chief Leo Nyongesa told reporters that a woman and her two grandchildren were also injured when attackers hurled a grenade at the East African Pentecostal Church compound in the predominantly Muslim town of Garissa, some 330 kilometers (205 miles) northeast of the capital Nairobi.
Christian witnesses said that after the explosion late Saturday, November 5, they heard attackers say “It is just the beginning,” in Swahili.
Ibrahim Makunyi, the head pastor at the church, told media that the house near the entrance of the church that belonged to a church elder had been bombed. “One of the dead is a member of the choir, and the other is the son of the church elder,” he said.
Another bomb was reportedly thrown Saturday, November 5, at a busy taxi circle frequented by military officers, but it failed to explode, Nyongesa added.
Police investigators suspect Islamist militant group al-Shabab, which has links to terrorist network al-Qaida, was behind the church attack. Al-Shabab, which operates from neighboring Somalia, wants to impose a strict form of Shariah, or Islamic law, in areas it controls. There was no known claim
of responsibility Sunday, November 6.
Confirmation of the latest church attack came as elsewhere in Kenya a Somali Christian refugee was reportedly recovering after six Somali Muslim men allegedly beat him with iron and wooden clubs, leaving him unconscious at a church entryway.
The Christian, identified only as 25-year-old Hassan, had earlier fled the turmoil in Somalia where several Christians have been killed by al-Shabab militants, fellow believers said.
Police said they detained two of the assailants, but four Muslims are still at large. Hassan and his mother, a convert from Islam, reportedly said they fear justice will not be done. “We need to relocate,” added the widow, who has six other sons and two daughters.
Hasan, who concerted to Christianity at age 7, recalled that his attackers left him for dead on October 27, bleeding and naked, on the apparent assumption that as a Somali he was born into Islam “and was therefore an apostate deserving of death.”
It was not immediately clear what, if any links, the attackers had with al-Shabab, but its ideology has followers in the region.
Besides targeting Christians, al-Shabab militants were also believed to be linked to a blast Saturday, November 5, along a road in the world’s largest refugee camp in eastern Kenya near the border with Somalia. No one was injured when a police truck escorting a United Nations convoy struck a landmine at the Dadaab camp, which cares for some half million Somalis fleeing famine and violence, officials said.
Kenya in mid-October sent troops into neighboring south Somalia to fight the al-Shabab militants it accuses of being behind a spate of kidnappings and cross-border attacks.
Al-Shabab threatened with retaliatory violence to protest Kenya’s military operation in Somalia including deadly attacks against Western tourists and aid workers.
The al-Shabab violence also comes amid concerns about the safety of foreign Christian missionaries in Kenya. Earlier this year Dutch missionary Ebel Kremer, 36, was shot and killed when armed robbers stormed a mission center near Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.
His 34-year-old wife Lora was reportedly sexually assaulted in front of their two small children in the predawn raid at the complex of international Christian organization Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in the town of Athi River, some 50 kilometers (32 miles) outside Nairobi.
YWAM stressed stressed at the time that there was no evidence that the February 25 attack was sparked by Muslim extremism and Kenyan police said they were investigating the incident as a robbery.