Muslim killed protecting Kenyan Christians posthumously awarded

29th Apr 2016

Elham Asaad Buaras

A Muslim teacher was posthumously awarded Kenya’s top honour for his heroism by the country’s President on March 31. Salah Sabdow Farah, 34, was among a group Muslim passengers who shielded Christians during a terror attack ambush on a bus last year.

President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the late Farah is to be awarded the Order of the Grand Warrior during the State of the Nation address. “He was a Muslim who was killed for shielding Christians. I salute Farah, who was a teacher, who died protecting Christians during an al-Shabaab attack,” the President said.

Farah was Deputy Headmaster at a school in Mandera county that borders Ethiopia and Somalia. In December 2015 he travelled to Masaai Mara, South West, Kenya, a trip of more than 800 kilometres, for a training program. He started his return journey on December 20, travelling by bus. The next day he was almost home when the bus was ambushed in the town of Kotulo.

Buses in the area usually travel by police escort for protection. “Unfortunately, there was no escort,” Farah said, “and then, unfortunately, we were surrounded by the al-Shabab.”

Farah says al-Shabab’s initial shots went through a windshield on the bus and shrapnel injured his arm.
After bringing the bus to a halt, the gunmen demanded the estimated 80 passengers disembark. They did, but not before some Muslim women gave their headscarves to Christian women.

They no doubt remembered an incident in Mandera in 2014, in which al-Shabab stopped a bus, divided passengers by religion, and then shot dead the 28 non-Muslims.After disembarking, “we were told to get down; we refused,” Farah said. “When we refused, they started shooting, so starting [at] that time when they started shooting, we went down, everybody went down in panic.”

The terrorists then took the passengers to a field. “We were told to separate the Christians, this side, the Muslims, this side,” Farah said. But Farah and the other passengers refused.

“And then, at that moment, when we were told to separate, we refused, that is the time that the bullet got me, from somewhere far,” Farah said. “It hit me in the hip,” where a bullet was lodged but would be later removed through surgery. Farah also sustained injuries in his arm.

Farah succumbed to his hip wounds in Nairobi’s Kenyatta National Hospital on January 19, leaving behind four young children aged between two and 10, and a pregnant wife.But despite the pain, Farah spoke to the media in his deathbed urging for unity among Christians and Muslims.

“People should live peacefully together,” he said. “We are brothers. It’s only the religion that is the difference, so I ask my brother Muslims to take care of the Christians so that the Christians also take care of us… and let us help one another and let us live together peacefully.” Mandera County has been known as the topmost terror hot spot in the country due to their closeness to the border between Kenya and Somalia.

Thousands have died from attacks perpetrated by the al-Shabaab and their sympathisers in vicious attacks.
64 teachers were killed in the November 2014 attack. Another attack involved the massacre of 36 quarry miners near Mandera town on December 2, 2014.

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