Prove you’re a Muslim — or die.
Islamic extremists hijacked a bus in Kenya on Saturday and singled out non-Muslim passengers who could not recite the Shahada, an Islamic creed that declares oneness with God. Those who failed to recite it correctly were forced to lie on the ground.
Two gunmen opened fire. One was firing from the left and the other blasting from the right. Twenty-eight people were killed — 19 men and nine women.
Miraculously, one man survived.
Douglas Ochwodho lay frozen, as the doomed victims — 17 of them teachers — were killed on either side of him. Ochwodho told The Associated Press that each of the gunmen mistakenly thought the other had shot him.
When the extremists left, Ochwodho, a non-Muslim head teacher of a private school who was heading home for Christmas vacation, ran back to the road and hitched a ride on a pickup truck to Mandera. He was later treated at a hospital for shock.
Al-Shabab, an Islamic gang of terrorists, claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred around dawn in northeastern Kenya. The Al Qaeda-affiliated group said the mass slayings were in response to raids by Kenyan police on mosques last week.
“The Mujahedeen intercepted a bus, which had on board a group of Christians that enjoyed the killing and the maiming of Muslims,” Al-Shabab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamed Rageh said in a statement.
Sixty passengers were traveling to Nairobi before the bus was forced off a road, said Kenyan police chief David Kimaiyo.
Kenya’s military responded to the merciless killings by launching air strikes later Saturday, destroying the attackers’ camp in Somalia and killing 45 rebels.
The terrorists first tried to wave the bus down, but when it didn’t stop, they started firing at it, according to police. When spraying the bus with bullets didn’t work, they launched a rocket-propelled grenade at the vehicle.
Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said the U.S. condemns the attack and offers sympathy to the victims and their families.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the 28 individuals killed,” Meehan said. “The United States stands with our Kenyan partners in the effort to counter the threat of terrorism and affirms our ongoing commitment to working with all Kenyans to combat these atrocities.”
In September, the International Crisis Group warned that Al-Shabab is becoming “more entrenched and a graver threat to Kenya.”
Since Kenya sent troops into Somalia in October 2011, authorities say there have been at least 135 attacks by Al-Shabab, including the 2013 Westgate Mall shooting that left 67 people dead.