By TOM ODULA
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Al-Shabab militants from Somalia hijacked a bus in Kenya’s north and killed 28 non-Muslims on board after they had been singled out from the rest of the passengers, police officials said Saturday.
Two police officers said that the bus traveling to the capital Nairobi with 60 passengers was hijacked 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the town Mandera near Kenya’s border with Somalia. The officers insisted on anonymity out of fear of reprisals because of an order from Kenya’s police chief that officers should not speak to the media.
Some of the dead were public servants who were heading to the capital Nairobi for the Christmas vacation, the officers said.
Kenya has been hit by a series of gun and bomb attacks blamed on Somalia’s al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militants since it sent troops into Somalia in October 2011. Authorities say there have been at least 135 attacks since then, including the Westgate Mall attack in which 67 people were killed. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the Westgate Mall attack in September 2013. The terror group also said it was responsible for other attacks on Kenya’s coast earlier this year which left at least 90 people dead.
Kenyan troops are part of the African Union Mission in Somalia which is bolstering Somalia’s weak U.N.-backed government against the al-Shabab insurgency. Al-Shabab has continued to carry out attacks on Somalia’s capital despite being pushed out of Mogadishu by African Union forces supporting the government in August 2011. The Somali government troops backed by AU forces are making progress in capturing the remaining al-Shabab strongholds. Recently, they captured the port town of Barawe.
Al-Shabab was also dealt a heavy blow following the death of their leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, who was killed in early September in a U.S. airstrike. Godane has been replaced by Ahmed Omar, also known as Abu Ubeid.