Shabaab and its affiliate in Kenya, the Muslim Youth Center, appear to have taken a page out of Boko Haram’s book and launched coordinated attacks on churches in northern Kenya. “Gunmen” killed 15 people and wounded more than 40 in separate attacks on two churches in the town of Garissa, which is near the border with Somalia. From the BBC:
Sunday’s attacks took place during morning sermons at the churches in the garrison town. The Provincial Medical Officer for North Eastern Province in Kenya, Mahamad Abey Shekh, said 15 people had been killed. About 40 were thought to be wounded, several in serious condition.
The first and most serious attack took place at the AIC [African Inland Church], police told our correspondent.
Gunmen shot two policemen outside one of the churches, and grenades were then thrown inside. As the panicked congregation rushed to escape, gunmen fired on them, police said. At least 10 people died.
In the second – apparently co-ordinated – attack at a Catholic church, two grenades were thrown inside the church. One failed to go off, but police say three people were injured by the other one.
Police said up to seven gunmen were involved in the attacks, but none had been apprehended.
Witnesses told AFP that bodies lay scattered in the blood-spattered churches as scores of wounded were rushed to hospital
The Muslim Youth Center has said it would wage jihad in Kenya.
Sheikh Ahmad Iman Ali is the leader of the Muslim Youth Center, Shabaab’s branch in Kenya. In January, the Muslim Youth Center identified Ali as its leader, and said that Kenya “is legally a war zone” and that Ali “now leads us into jihad in Kenya without hesitation or fear.” See LWJ report, Shabaab names new leader of Kenyan branch.
In February, just after Shabaab announced its merger with al Qaeda, the Muslim Youth Center released a statement announcing that it has now become “part of al Qaeda East Africa.”
“Such a union is long over due and MYC [Muslim Youth Center] members are pleased to be part of this great union that seeks to defeat the crusaders in Somalia and here in Kenya,” the statement said. “We pray Allah grants the mujahideen in Kenya to firmness and strength to set jihad alight here in Kenya.” See LWJ report, ‘We in MYC are now part of al Qaeda East Africa’.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.