Terror in Mombasa church

Sunday March 23 2014

Mvita MP Abdullswamad Shariff Nassir consoles Dennis Nicholas, 42, at the Coast General Hospital after he was injured during an attack by gunmen at a church in Likoni March 23, 2014. KEVIN ODIT/NATION.

Mvita MP Abdullswamad Shariff Nassir consoles Dennis Nicholas, 42, at the Coast General Hospital after he was injured during an attack by gunmen at a church in Likoni March 23, 2014. KEVIN ODIT/NATION. Photo/KEVIN ODIT

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Security officers were Sunday combing the Likoni area in search of gunmen who opened fire in a church, killing four people and injuring 21 others.

The gunmen, with faces covered in balaclavas, attacked Joy in Jesus Church at 10.30am. One entered the church through a back door and started shooting indiscriminately while two others, who were armed with an AK-47 rifle and a pistol, waited outside and shot fleeing worshippers.

When the attackers left, blood splattered on the floor, bodies lay on the ground with the personal effects of victims and survivors strewn all over the church whose walls also bore the marks of the killers’ bullets.

According to the pastor’s wife, Mrs Lilian Omondi, the attacker who entered the church was a tall and slender man dressed in a distinctive long-sleeved yellow shirt.

She said the attacker killed a 60-year-old guard at the door before opening fire on the worshippers inside the church.
“I came face to face with him. Luckily, I escaped unhurt as he started the random shooting aiming at anybody and everything in sight,” she said. Some worshippers were injured in the stampede as they fled for their lives.
Police said the attackers made a second attempt on a nearby church but fled when they realised it was guarded by armed police.
The attack calls to mind the bigger one in September last year when four gunmen slaughtered 67 people at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall. Al Shabaab, the Somali Islamic terror group, claimed responsibility for the Westgate attack.

Only last week, a powerful car bomb was intercepted by police. Experts said the bomb was big enough to flatten a tall building. There were also reports that police were looking for more.

It is not clear who carried out the Likoni attack. Terrorist group Al Shabaab appears to have stepped up threat to Kenya and the region. There has also bene concern over growing radicalisation of Muslim youth in Mombasa, culminating in the police last month storming a Mosque where youngers were allegedly being indocrinated by Al Shabbab sympathisers.

Sealed all exits in Likoni

Interior Principal Secretary Mutea Iringo Sunday said police had sealed all exits in Likoni and were combing the area for the gunmen.

“We are appealing to the public to help us apprehend those criminals,” he said.

Mombasa county commissioner Nelson Marwa said security agents had mounted a major operation to flush out criminals and suspected terrorists. “The government will not relent in this fight,” he told the Daily Nation on phone.

A survivor of yesterday’s attack, Mr Benson Okoth, said the first gunman walked casually past him after he pretended to be dead.

“This is what saved my life,” he said. “Some worshippers screamed as others fell down on the floor to avoid being shot.”

Speaking at the scene of the attack, Likoni Police Division chief Robert Muriithi said the attackers arrived and left on foot. However, he said they were getting conflicting reports from witnesses.
Police found a bag full of bullets believed to have been dropped by the gunmen as they walked away towards Shonda village.

At the Coast Provincial General Hospital, medical personnel had a difficult time attending to the injured as anxious relatives thronged the casualty department.

The hospital’s chief administrator, Dr Bernard Mwero, confirmed that they had received four bodies.