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Survivor tells of Kenyan bus terror attack
AP, NOVEMBER 24, 2014 / The Australian News
ONE gunman shot from the right, one from the left, each killing the non-Muslims lying in a line on the ground, growing closer to Douglas Ochwodho, who was in the middle.
Then the shooting stopped. Apparently each gunman thought the other had shot Mr Ochwodho. He lay still until the 20 Islamic extremists left, and he appears to be the only survivor of those selected for death.
Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabab, attacked a bus in northern Kenya at dawn on Saturday, local time, singling out and killing 28 passengers who could not recite an Islamic creed and were assumed to be non-Muslims, police said yesterday.
Those who could not say the Shahada, a tenet of the Muslim faith, were shot at close range, Mr Ochwodho said.
Nineteen men and nine women were killed, said Kenyan police chief David Kimaiyo.
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the killings through its radio station in Somalia, saying it was in retaliation for raids by Kenyan security forces carried out last week on four mosques.
Kenya’s military said it responded to the killings with airstrikes that destroyed the attackers’ camp in Somalia and killed 45 rebels.
“The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s horrific attack in Kenya by the terrorist group al-Shabab against innocent civilians,” said Bernadette Meehan, spokeswoman for the National Security Council in Washington. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also condemned the attack.
The bus travelling to the capital Nairobi with 60 passengers was hijacked about 50km from the town of Mandera near Kenya’s border with Somalia, said two police officers.
The attackers tried to wave the bus down. When it did not stop, the gunmen sprayed it with bullets, said police. They then shot a rocket-propelled grenade at it, the officers said.
The gunmen took control of the vehicle and forced it off the road where they ordered all the passengers out of the vehicle and separated those who appeared to be non-Muslims — mostly non-Somalis — from the rest.
Mr Ochwodho, a non-Muslim head teacher of a private primary school in Mandera, said he was travelling home for the Christmas holiday.
Those who couldn’t recite the Shahada were ordered to lie down. Mr Ochwodho was among those on the ground.
Two gunmen started shooting those on the ground; one gunman started from the left and other from the right, Mr Ochwodho said.
When they reached him they were confused on whether either had shot him, he said.
When the gunmen left, he ran back to the road and got a lift from a truck back to Mandera.
He spoke from a hospital bed where he was being treated for shock.
Seventeen of the 28 dead were teachers, according to the police commander in Mandera County.
The attackers have more sophisticated weaponry than the police, who waited for military reinforcements before responding.
Kenya has been hit by a series of gun and bomb attacks blamed on al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qa’ida, since it sent troops into Somalia in October 2011. Authorities say there have been at least 135 attacks by al-Shabab since then, including the assault on Nairobi’s upscale Westgate Mall in September last year in which 67 people were killed.