Mandera, Kenya is no stranger to radical Islamic terrorism. While International Christian Concern (ICC) marks the anniversary of a tragic al-Shabaab attack on Christian quarry workers that killed 14 people in Mandera in July 2015, the militant Islamist terror group continues to wage bloody assaults in the area.
Over the past three years, al-Shabaab terrorists have murdered at least 60 people in at least three separate bus attacks, and nearly 50 people in multiple attacks on quarry sleeping quarters.
The past month has seen at least two reported al-Shabaab attacks on buses in this arid northeast corner of Kenya that borders Somalia and Ethiopia.
On June 20, militants assaulted a bus carrying civilians from Wajir to Mandera, killing five officers in the bus’s police escort.
On July 1, al-Shabaab attackers opened fire on commuter buses ferrying passengers from Nairobi to Mandera between Wargadud and El Wak, murdering another six people. Police also escorted these buses leading up to the attack.
While details from these latest attacks fail to reveal persecution as the attackers’ specific motive, al-Shabaab has continually targeted Christians, both with their actions and in their rhetoric.
Al-Shabaab has become notorious for separating Christians from Muslims during attacks, murdering followers of Jesus and letting Muslims go free.
On April 2, 2015, five gunmen assaulted Garissa University in northeastern Kenya, murdering 148 people, mostly Christians in the most significant attack where al-Shabaab distinctly targeted Christians.
In late December 2015, when attackers tried to separate Christians and Muslims again in a bus attack near Mandera, Kenyan Muslim Salah Farah heroically defended believers. He boldly told the persecutors to “kill us together, or leave us alone,” according to reports. Farah later died from his injuries in the attack that also claimed the life of Christian Meshack Otieno.
Al-Shabaab has consistently and self-consciously hunted Christians, seeking to purge believers from northeastern Kenya, land they consider to be Islamic territory.
The terror group also claimed credit for 14 Christian murders on July 7, 2015 when they assaulted the Mandera quarries again.
Anniversary of a Massacre
At 1:00 a.m. on July 7, 2015, al-Shabaab militants raided two quarry dormitories in Mandera, heavily armed. They penetrated the compound firing indiscriminately, killing the 14. Dozens more were left with debilitating injuries.
“Every time we hear of attacks in Mandera we remember the deadly experience we went through,” survivor Maina Justus told ICC.
“Life has never been the same again but the Lord has been good to us,” he added.
Justus was airlifted to Nairobi after suffering multiple gunshot wounds from the attack.
“I thank God for saving my life and I pray for the victims to be of good courage,” he said.
Esther Njiri lost her husband, Njiri, in the raid. Now a widow, Esther is learning to adapt to a new pace of life.
“We have cried a lot with my children,” she told ICC, “It seems like it just happened. Living without a husband and a father is not easy. We have been strong by Gods grace.”
Esther told us that Njiri died on his birthday.
“We don’t know what to celebrate, maybe his birthday, because he lives in our hearts,” she explained.
While battling indelible emotional pain from loss, Esther encourages other affected families to trust in the Lord as they move forward with their lives.
Persevering in Hope
Persecution has cost eight families in Nyeri County, Kenya their husbands, fathers, and primary breadwinners who trekked to Mandera to work in the quarries and died there bearing the Name of Christ.
Esther and Joyce Karumba are two widows among the mourning families whom ICC is assisting by developing dairy businesses in Nyeri.
Joyce continues to mourn her lost husband.
“I have cried the whole night when I remembered how we lived well with my late husband. It’s exactly one year after the al-Shabaab killed him and life has been difficult,” she told ICC. “I have been breaking stones in the local quarry to earn something little to support my two children.”
As God’s Word commands us to remember those who are suffering, ICC has stepped in to help widows like Joyce.
“ICC came in handy to uplift our souls by giving us cows. This is an act worthy of gratitude and we thank God for using strangers to help us.”
As we seek to relieve the suffering of brothers and sisters around the world, we remember widows such as Joyce and Esther and ask those concerned to please consider these victims in your prayers and with your support.