Religious camaraderie on display in Kenya as Muslims shield Christians from Islamist attack

In November 2014, Somalia’s al-Shabab hijacked a bus in Kenya and killed 28 non-Muslim passengers after singling them out from the rest of the passengers. There were 60 passengers in total, according to the police. The attack was revenge for raids carried out by Kenyan security forces on mosques in the coastal city of Mombasa. The event in Mandera is still fresh in the memories of Kenyans and they would not allow a repeat, hence the shielding of Christian passengers by the Muslims on board a bus attacked by Islamist militants on Monday.

The bus was attacked in the village of El Wak on the Somali border, while traveling from Nairobi to Mandera. The gunmen ordered the occupants of the bus to alight and tried to single out Christians but the passengers did not cooperate, saying they wanted to be killed together or left alone.

“The locals showed a sense of patriotism and belonging to each other,” Mandera governor Ali Roba told the Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation.

At least two people were killed in the attack, the BBC reports.

Al-Shabaab, which is affiliated to global terrorist organisation Al-Qaeda, has targeted Kenya with repeated attacks in response to Kenyan military involvement in Somalia. Most of the attacks have been concentrated in Kenya’s northeast and has focused on Christians. When the Islamic extremist group killed 148 people in an attack on Garissa University College in April, the militants reportedly singled out Christians and shot them.

“The aim is to create conflict between the Muslims and the non-Muslims in this country,” BBC quoted Abdikadir Mohammed to have said after the 2014 bus attack. “The aim is to create a religious war, religious strife, in Kenya.” But Kenyans have decided to stand together against terrorism.

Terror attacks in Kenya has affected the country’s important tourism sector. Tourism is Kenya’s most important industry, after agriculture. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the industry is responsible for 14 percent of GDP and 12 percent of total employment. But due to increasing terror attacks in Kenya, several countries have issued travel warnings to their residents over the past year. Just last month, the U.S. Department of State updated its warning to U.S. citizens on the risk of traveling to Kenya.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected Kenya’s real gross domestic product growth to accelerate to about six percent in 2016, riding on the continuation of strong investment momentum, better agricultural yield owing to good rain and a pick-up in tourism. The Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF) had also said in June that it expects the tourism industry to recover by February 2016. But projected growth in the industry will rely greatly on how major tourism source markets advise their citizens on the attacks in Kenya.