NAIROBI – Leading Kenya Muslim scholars have vehemently condemned the attack on a Mombasa church that left six killed and dozens wounded, stressing that attempts to spoil religious harmony would be foiled.
“The attackers have not done this on behalf of any religion or right-thinking group,” Sheikh Juma Ngao, a prominent Muslim scholar in Mombasa, told Reuters on Sunday, March 23.
“If they are hoping to drive a wedge between religious groups in this region, then they are greatly mistaken.”
Worshippers at Sunday’s church service in Mombasa were attacked by gunmen who opened fire on the congregation.
Shouting in a foreign language, the assailants fired live rounds, killing at least six and wounding dozens.
“Both carried big guns and began shooting all over the place. I fell to the ground and could hear screams,” said Lilian Omondi, who was leading a prayer meeting at the time.
“They were shot by gunmen who shot indiscriminately at worshippers and then fled,” local police chief Robert Mureithi, from the Likoni district just south of Mombasa, told Agence France Presse (AFP).
Initial reports linked the attacks to Al-Shabaab militias.
Kenya Muslims have been sensing eradication of their rights following Wetgate mall attack in which more than 60 people were killed which was claimed by Somalia's militant al Shabaab group.
Though the attack was immediately condemned by leaders of the Muslim community, they have fallen victims of frequent police raids.
The Kenyan police crackdown on Muslim has extended to mosques when security forces raided Musa mosque in Mombasa's Majengo last month, arresting about 130 people and killing a number of people.
The unjustified attacks were criticized by analysts as fueling anti-Muslim sentiments in the society as well as crippling Muslims’ efforts to eradicate radicalism.
Mombasa police described Sunday's assault on the church as a “terror attack”.
The assault had “all the indicators of a terrorist attack because the attackers did not steal anything and appeared focused on killing,” Mureithi, the police chief said.
In the wake of the attack, security forces were swiftly deployed in Likoni neighborhood, where the attack happened, arresting more than hundred youth suspects.
“According to anti-terrorism police officers, Likoni is among active terror cells where youths are recruited to join the Al Shabaab terror group,” the police chief claimed.
Meanwhile, officials appealed to public to offer information that might help in arresting the gunmen who perpetuated the attack.
“Police who were 100 meters away patrolling the area responded swiftly but unfortunately the gunmen managed to escape,” said Mutea Iringo, the Interior Principal Secretary.
“Police have closed all exits in the area and are combing to arrest the criminals to face the law.”
It is estimated that there are at least 10 million Muslims in Kenya out of the total 40 million, most of whom live in the coastal and North Eastern parts of the country.
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