By BosNewsLife Africa Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
NAIROBI, KENYA (BosNewsLife)– Christians in eastern Kenya have plunged into mourning after three Christian teachers were killed in the latest attack by Islamic militants terrorizing the region. Officials and religious rights groups said the Christian men died when fighters of the extremist al-Shabab group attacked a school in Kamuthe, a town in Garissa County, bordering Somalia.
One teacher, a Muslim, was reportedly kidnapped, and a colleague was wounded in the January 13 attack on the Kamuthe Primary School. The whereabouts of the kidnapped Muslim were not immediately known.
Attackers also hit a police post and destroyed a telecommunications tower, several sources said. The raid came while the school teachers were asleep in their staff housing, Christians said. Survivors claimed that local Somali Muslim teachers were separated from non-locals, whom they presumed were Christians.
One of the attackers reportedly said, “We cannot allow infidels to teach our children,” before the three Christian men were shot to death.
Christian rights group International Christian Concern (ICC) identified those killed as Caleb Mutua, Titus Ushindi, and Samuel Muthui Kyonzu. Joshua Mutua reportedly survived with serious leg injuries.
The killed teachers had attended a local church, Christians said.
Robert Kibutu, a teacher, living outside the school’s residential area, confirmed the attack. “My fellow teachers were fatally shot by an unknown number of suspected al-Shabab militia. They stormed Kamuthe primary school early this morning, leaving one severely injured by two gunshots,” he explained in remarks published by ICC.
“We are sad. And at the same time scared because we are targeted for being non-local government workers that belong to the Christian faith,” he was quoted as saying.
The attack added to concerns among Christians in the region.
Already almost 100 schools along the border with Somalia are reportedly operating with just a headmaster. Teachers stay away amid fears of more violence, according to Christians familiar with the situation.
Since the New Year violence has escalated, particularly against non-Somali Muslims, several sources confirmed. A January 5 attack rocked Camp Simba, a military base shared by U.S. forces, killing three Americans.
Commentators are arguing whether the surge of violence signals renewed strength by the terror group or is a seasonal phenomenon.
A new report found that al-Shabab killed more than 4,000 civilians over the past ten years.
Tres Thomas, a security analyst, focusing on Somalia, suggested that the attacks show that al-Shabab wants to sow divisions among the population by sparing Muslims and killing Christians.
He told the Voice of America network that January is typically a time when the Islamic terror group launches some of its deadliest attacks.
That also included a 2017 attack in Kulbiyow, where dozens of Kenya Defense Force soldiers were killed, and the DusitD2 hotel attack in 2019 that killed more than 20 people.
Future strategies, Thomas said, should focus on securing the border and preventing the group from recruiting young Kenyans, particularly those of Somali origin. “What needs to be identified are ways to actually stop al-Shabab from crossing the border, recruiting inside Kenya,” he explained.
“And that’s something that Kenya hasn’t been able to accomplish, even though it’s been deployed in Somalia for the last nine years,” Thomas stressed.
Christian rights groups said they had urged their supporters to “Pray that Kenya’s governing authorities will be able to stem the flow of militants entering the country” to attack Christians and other civilians.