Monday, March 24, 2014

KENYA: SIX DEAD IN GUN ATTACK ON CHURCH NEAR MOMBASA

a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

The death toll in a gun attack on 23 March on the Joy in Jesus Christ Church in Likoni, near the Kenyan port city of Mombasa, has risen to six, after four victims died in hospital.

At least two gunmen are reported to have been involved in the attack, which occurred at around 10 am. According to eyewitnesses, the men mingled with the congregation before opening fire indiscriminately with a pistol and an AK-47 machine gun, killing two people and injuring 21 others, eight of whom are still hospitalised. Eyewitnesses report that after opening fire, the men casually walked away from the scene, mingling with the public. According to one local media source, the gunmen subsequently attempted to storm another church, but left quickly after realising that it was guarded by police officers.

Although no group has as yet claimed responsibility for the attack, it is widely suspected to be the work of the Somali Islamist terror group al Shabaab or its sympathisers. One hundred suspects have reportedly been detained for questioning by the police in connection with the attack; however the main culprits are suspected to still be at large.

The attack on Likoni comes a week after Mombasa police seized a stolen car full of powerful explosives and arrested suspected terrorists, two of whom were later charged with terrorism-related offences. It is the third significant religiously motivated attack to occur in the Likoni area. On Christmas Eve 2013, assailants torched Christ's Outreach Church in the Mweza area of Likoni Constituency. In June, at least 16 people were injured when an explosive device was thrown at an outdoor event at Earthquake Miracle Ministries in the Mrima area by two people on a motorcycle.

According to Kenyan police and intelligence sources, a combination of an active Al Shabaab cell and militant separatists is the source of much of the violence, particularly in Mombasa.

Other religiously motivated attacks in the area include an attempt to burn down the Baptist Church in Kisauni in October 2013. This was followed by the killings of Redeemed Gospel Church Pastor Charles Matole in Kisauni and Pastor Ebrahim Kidata of East African Pentecostal Church in Kilifi. Prior to his death, Pastor Kidata reportedly received threatening text messages and had informed his wife that his life was in danger. The pastors' murders followed rioting by Muslim youths angered at the killing of radical Sheikh Ibrahim Omar and three others on a road near Mombasa. In early December 2013 a text message suspected to have been leaked by Kenyan intelligence warned that jihadis led by a Mr Hassan Suleiman Mwayuyu, a wanted terrorist who was gunned down soon thereafter, were planning an arson campaign against churches in Likoni, Kisauni, Changamwe and Kwale. Subsequently, on 14 February 2014, Lawrence Kazungu Kadenge, an assistant pastor at Glory of God Ministries Church in Mombasa, was murdered while guarding the church building.

Daniel Sinclair, Communications Director at Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said, 'We extend our condolences to the families bereaved in the appalling attack on the Joy in Jesus Christ church service yesterday. The dangerous elements targeting the Christian community also represent a threat to security and rule of law in the country, which affects every citizen. We urge the Kenyan government to ensure that churches in Mombasa are adequately protected. We also urge the government to act swiftly to bring the gunmen to justice and deal robustly with the militant elements who are not only determined to deny the full enjoyment of freedom of religion to local Christians, but who also endanger the peace and security of the nation.'

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

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