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After attacks, Kenyan Muslims guard Christian churches

In Kenya, attacks on Christian churches in the Muslim-majority town of Garissa killed 17 people July 1. Now, local Muslim leaders are patrolling to help protect the churches.

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Roman Catholic faithfuls walk inside the African Inland Church that was attacked in the northern Kenyan town of Garissa, July 8. Masked assailants launched simultaneous gun and grenade raids on two churches in a Kenyan town last Sunday, killing at least 17 people in the worst attack in the country since Kenya sent troops into Somalia to attack Al Shabab militants.

Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

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Kenyan Muslims are joining the police in protecting churches in the northeastern province where Christians have come under increased attack from suspected Somali Al Shabab Islamic militants.

Following July 1 attacks on churches in the town of Garissa – close to the Kenyan-Somali border – local Muslim leaders have decided to provide their own protection to the churches of their Christian neighbors. Last Sunday, July 8, local Muslim youths and their leaders patrolled with the police during church services, and no attacks were reported.

The patrols are a strong statement of rejection for the militant methods and ideology of Al Shabab, the Somali Islamist militant group that is suspected of carrying out the July 1 attacks in Garissa. By targeting Christians, militants in northern Kenya appear to be punishing Kenya for sending troops into Somalia to attack Al Shabab, and to prop up the shaky Somali government.

The methods used at Garissa are similar to those used by northern Nigeria’s Islamic militants, Boko Haram. Masked men lobbed grenades at Our Lady of Consolata Catholic Church and Africa Inland Church as worshipers prepared to start the morning service. They shot dead two policemen, stole the policemen's weapons, and began opening fire on worshipers at the AIC. In the attacks, 17 people were killed and 66 others injured. 

During his patrol on Sunday, Sheikh Abdullahi Salat, the chairman of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM) in Garissa, condemned the attacks as terrorism and as against the teachings of the prophet Muhammad. Muslims will guard the churches as a sign of solidarity with the Christian minority in the town, he said.

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