Al-Shabaab terrorists fired wildly in the air in jubilation after they hijacked a Nairobi-bound bus and executed 28 people in a chilling dawn attack at Arabiya in Mandera near the Kenya-Somali border.
On Saturday, the bodies were flown to Wilson Airport in Nairobi and received by Deputy President William Ruto, Inspector-General of Police David Kimaiyo and family members at 6.30pm.
Following the attack, the Deputy President chaired a crisis security meeting at the airport Saturday evening.
In attendance were Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku, his Principal Secretary Monica Juma, Mr Kimaiyo and Kenya Defence Forces representatives. President Uhuru Kenyatta is away on an official trip in the United Arab Emirates.
The meeting came hours after the Somali-based terrorists claimed responsibility for the attack.
In the massacre, Mandera County Police Commander Noah Mwivanda said six men standing on both sides of the road flagged down a bus belonging Makkah Company at Omar Jillo Village at 5am before attacking it.
“The driver of the bus was waved down by armed men but he did not stop. He instead sped off only to notice three more standing in the middle of the road holding bazookas,” said Mwivannda.
RECITE KORAN VERSE
Survivors said 15 masked gunmen got on the bus and commandeered it towards Somalia but after a kilometre, the bus got stuck in mud because it had rained heavily in the area.
A passenger made a distress call to the bus’s booking office in Nairobi’s Eastleigh moments into the attack but the line went dead before he could give details.
Eye-witness accounts indicated that the attackers took all the passengers through a faith test, asking them to recite Islamic verses.
It is claimed they were targeting non-Muslims. This was similar to accounts after the Mpeketoni attacks in Lamu in June that were blamed on Al-Shabaab.
“They asked how many times I prayed in a day, asked me to recite a Koran verse and also used an Islamic greeting. Anybody who failed to respond correctly to these was asked to lie on a muddy patch of the road facing down,” said a survivor, who did not want to be identified.
Those who failed the faith test were separated from the rest of the passengers and had their identification cards and mobile phones confiscated. They were then asked to lie belly-down in a straight line, according Mr Mwivanda.
At least 30 of the remaining passengers, assumed to be Muslims, were asked to go back to the bus before the criminals cocked their guns and shot the 28 victims at point-blank range, killing them on the spot.
“They were all shot in the head from behind one after the other and all the 28 died on the spot. But one teacher escaped after the attackers got confused by blood stains from another victim,” said Mr Mwivanda.
A FAITH TEST
Survivors of the attack said two gunmen took position on either side of those lying on the ground and started shooting them.
“They blew their heads off just like that,” said a passenger who was let off for passing the faith test.
He said the blood-thirsty attackers were dressed in military-like fatigues and they fired in the air to celebrate their macabre attack.
The dead are 19 males and nine females, including a police officer with his wife.
Mr Rashid Farah, who owns Borderview Academy, said he lost three teachers in the attack. He said they hailed from Kiambu, Nyeri and Eldoret areas and were all in their mid 20s.
“We had a party yesterday and we bid each other goodbye and said ‘let’s meet in the New Year’. They were not married and had cleared college about three years ago. I employed them a year ago,” Mr Farah told Sunday Nation.
Kieni MP Kanini Kega said two of the victims were sisters who hailed from his constituency.
“Enough is enough. I’m bringing a Motion to Parliament to remove Mr Kimaiyo, (Deputy Inspector-General) Samuel Arachi and Grace Kaindi. They have failed Kenyans,” he said.
17 TEACHERS EXECUTED
Reports indicated that about 17 teachers were executed. Others were security 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,” said the survivor, who spoke to the Sunday Nation.
He added: “I know of a pharmacist posted at Takaba sub-county hospital who was killed. In fact, we lived together and even boarded the bus 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.
Mr Mwivanda said investigations are underway and the first to be interrogated will be the bus company bosses.
He added that the timing of the incident was also suspect.
“The attack happened just less than 6km from the main border and our men who are doing aerial surveillance told us that no one was in vicinity,” said Mr Mwivanda.
Interior Secretary Joseph ole Lenku said Kenya Defence Forces had been deployed to the area. “They have already identified where the militia men came from and they have launched offensive attacks,” Mr Lenku said.
He appealed to leaders to desist from making inciting statements about the state of the security in the country, saying that the attack in Mandera was a criminal act and not a religious attack.
Various political and religious leaders have condemned the attack.
Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, Supkem, Secretary General Adan Wachu called on the security forces to track down those involved in attacks in the country and deal with them according to the law.
“The Mandera attack was not conducted by Muslims. They were conducted by criminals. Islam does not advocate for the killing of innocent people,” he said.
Tourism Secretary Mrs Phyllis Kandie sent condolences to the bereaved families and wish the injured a speedy recovery.
Frustrated and nervous relatives camped outside Wilson Airport for hours awaiting word on the whereabouts of their loved ones.
But as at 7:30 pm many complained that they had been kept in the dark.