Two people were killed in an Islamist terror attack on a bus Monday in Mandera, Kenya, but the death toll would likely have been much higher if Muslim passengers had not defied the demand of militants to identify the Christians traveling with them for execution.
Members of the Somali-based al-Shabaab terrorist group, which has frequently targeted Kenya's northeast border towns, stormed a bus carrying about 60 passengers. Abdi Mohamud Abdi, a Muslim passenger, told Reuters more than 10 heavily armed militants boarded, demanding the passengers separate into groups of Muslims and Christians.
The Muslims refused to split away, displaying extraordinary bravery, as al-Shabaab has been known to also kill Muslims. The passengers told the militants "to kill them together or leave them alone," a local governor told Kenyan media.
The Muslims even helped dress the other passengers in Islamic garb, including giving the women head scarves to prevent the militants from identifying them for slaughter.
"We even gave some non-Muslims our religious attire to wear in the bus so that they would not be identified easily," Abdi said. "We stuck together tightly."
"The militants threatened to shoot us but we still refused and protected our brothers and sisters," he added. "Finally they gave up and left but warned that they would be back."
The militants left the scene after the passengers' show of unity.
"The locals showed a sense of patriotism and belonging to each other," Mandera governor Ali Roba told Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper.
One of the passengers, a non-Muslim, was shot and killed by the militants after attempting to run, BBC reported.
The second person killed was a passenger in a car that was stopped by the militants. They shot this person, a non-Muslim off-duty police officer who had hitchhiked, when he tried to flee, the Associated Press reported.
Roba confirmed two people were killed and at least three other were injured during the attack.
Kenya has experienced a series of extremely violent attacks by al-Shaabab since 2011.
In April, al-Shabaab killed 148 people, mostly students, at Garissa University College. The militants reportedly singled out Christians and killed them, while letting Muslims flee.
In 2014, a bus of teachers was attacked by al-Shaabab in Mandera, which is in northern Kenya, killing 28 non-Muslims. During the attack, those who could not recite passages from the Koran were reportedly shot in the head.
In September 2013, al-Shabaab seized the Westgate shopping mall in the capital, Nairobi, holding hostages for days and killing 67 people.