Gunmen fired wildly in the air in jubilation after they killed 28 people perceived to be non-Muslims during the attack at Arabiya in Mandera near the Kenya-Somali border.
One of the passengers in the ill-fated bus, who did not want his identity revealed, said the masked gunmen fired the shots from G3 rifles, AK-47s, pistols and light machine guns.
He said they spoke in Swahili, English and Somali languages and were in military-like attire.
He said that on arrival in the Arabiya area, about six heavily armed men stopped the bus. One of them had a rocket propeller.
They fired at the left side of the bus before they forcefully made their way inside while brandishing their firearms.
“They spoke to the bus driver and the conductor in Somali, roughed them up before commandeering the vehicle off the main road for about one or two kilometres towards the Somali border,” said the passenger.
As they proceeded, the bus got stuck in a muddy section of the road and all the passengers were asked to alight.
“At this juncture, more gunmen appeared from nowhere and we were asked to identify ourselves,” said the passenger.
The Al-Shabaab militia asked each of the passengers which faith they profess. Identification cards (ID) and mobile phones belonging to the non-Muslims were confiscated and they were separated from the rest of the passengers.
“They asked how many times I pray in a day, asked me to recite a Koran verse and also greeted one in Islamic. If one failed to answer these questions, then you’d be asked to lie on a muddy patch of the road facing down,” he said.
About 30 of the remaining passengers said to be Muslims were then asked to go back to the bus before the criminals cocked their guns and shot 28 people, killing them on the spot.
“They blew off their heads. Just like that,” the passenger described the killing.
Preliminary reports indicate that about 17 teachers were executed. Others were police officers and health care workers who had been posted to the area and were leaving for their rural homes.
“As quickly as they killed them, they then disappeared. It was too horrific to watch and we only came out of the bus minutes later after they had left.
“I know of a pharmacist posted at Takaba Sub-county hospital who was killed. In fact, we lived together and even boarded the bus on Saturday morning. Others are a teacher, a couple, a policeman and his wife and one of their in-laws who were all innocent,” he said.
It is suspected that the unknown militia could have killed the 28 people to register their discontent with the closure of mosques in Mombasa after they were allegedly found hosting radicalised Muslim youth and deadly weapons among them hand grenades.
Earlier this month, Mandera Governor Ali Roba said there was intelligence that Al-Shabaab militants from cells in Somalia were heading to Kenya.
He took issue with what he said was a police move to downplay the 10 terror attacks that had occurred in his county, instead of taking firm measures to contain them.
“Judging from the terror incidents in Mandera over the last 40 days…there have been 10 attacks and there’s no doubt terror cells in Somalia have firmly infiltrated into the country.
"It is, however, unfortunate that police in Mandera are downplaying the situation of increased terror attacks,” Mr Roba said on November 8.
The county boss said intelligence reports indicated the Al-Shabaab were moving towards the Mandera-Somalia border and that “it is only a matter of time before they start moving into other parts of the country.”
“The attacks are increasing by day. The local network of intelligence show there’s increased movement of Al-Shabaab along the borders of Mandera with an intention to enter and cause havoc in the country. Only God knows what could happen if they enter,” the governor added.
On October 15, Mr Roba escaped unhurt in an attack on his motorcade after a powerful device exploded as his motorcade passed. A security vehicle for the deputy governor was also attacked.
Earlier in April, unknown armed men shelled the Mandera County government offices, causing extensive damage on one side of the building.
The unidentified heavily armed attackers fired several powerful mortar-propelled grenades at the county offices, but nobody was hurt in the incident since it was early in the day and none of the workers had reported for work at the time of the shelling.
On October 30, an improvised explosive device went off in Mandera Town, damaging a private car.
The explosive had been planted on the roadside about 200 metres from the Rhamu bus stop, where Governor Roba’s convoy was.