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Questions follow Nairobi siege

Kenya (MNN) — A fuller “picture” of al-Shabaab’s 19-hour siege in Nairobi is emerging as details continue to pour in.

An American businessman and British charity worker are among the dozens of people who fell victim to explosions and gunfire. Citing a statement issued by al-Shabaab, Reuters reports the militants “carried out the attack in revenge for U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs USA says it’ll be interesting to see whether terrorists were specifically targeting Christians in this attack. The Somalian militants favor this type of pursuit.

“At both [Westgate Mall] and the university in Garissa, people were asked at gunpoint: are you a Muslim or a Christian? The Christians were shot; the Muslims were allowed to go,” he recalls.

“There were several instances where they (terrorists) [said], ‘ok, you say you’re a Muslim – quote some Koranic verses for me. Let me see for sure you’re a Muslim before I let you go’.”

What happened?

This is the third major attack instigated by al-Shabaab on Nairobi soil in six years. As questions continue to mount, security systems are under review. According to BBC News, the al-Shabaab gunmen captured on security camera footage were reportedly sighted on the hotel compound in recent days.

“There really isn’t any way to say ‘we’re going to eliminate this threat, we’re not going to have this’,” Nettleton observes. “You can ramp up security, you can be very cautious, but a determined foe can get into a place like that and wreak havoc.”

As outlined here by Associated Press, a suicide bomber began the 19-hour siege in a luxury hotel on Tuesday afternoon. Armed gunmen took over from there, forcing scores of people into hiding.

(Photo courtesy of VOM Canada)

“This is the same area where the mall was attacked several years ago,” he notes.

“It’s al-Shabaab again making their presence felt in Kenya, reminding the Kenyan government [and] reminding the Kenyan people that they are there and nobody is safe.”

The Somalian terror group took credit soon after the attack began.

“It will be interesting to see if they were specifically targeting Christians during the course of this attack,” Nettleton observes. “I have not heard that [about] this attack…but obviously the story is still being told.”

Why would they target Christians? Nettleton says believers don’t fit the terrorists’ vision for East Africa.

“Ultimately what they want is Sharia law and an area of Islamic control in Somalia, and then expanding out into some of the surrounding countries.”

What’s next?

With connections to al Qaeda, al-Shabaab has a long legacy of terror in Somalia. As described here, al-Shabaab translates to “The Youth” in Arabic:

Al-Shabaab is recognised as a terrorist organisation by many Western countries and rules according to a strict interpretation of Islamic laws known as Wahhabism (the same form of Islamic rule imposed in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan). This form of Islam is so extreme that even Sufi Muslims have been driven underground.

“As you think about Gospel workers in Kenya – both international and Kenyan – pray for their safety, because this is a situation that hits close to home. Some of them live in that area; many of them are in that area often,” says Nettleton.

(Photo courtesy of ILRI via Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/g8FAuM)

“Pray for safety and pray against fear.”

The attack could also trigger feelings of animosity between the Kenyan Christian and Muslim populations. “Muslims who have absolutely nothing to do with al-Shabaab could feel the wrath of Christians,” Nettleton explains.

“Let’s pray against a spirit of division and that Christians will be able to show the love of Christ and show forgiveness, even after an attack like this.”

Find more ways to support persecuted Christians on VOM’s website.

Header image is a graphic obtained from Wikimedia Commons depicting the al-Shabaab war flag.

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