Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pastor Killed in Church Blast in Garissa, Kenya

Several others injured in attack by suspected Islamic extremists.

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
NAIROBI, KENYA (ANS) -- Chaplain Julius Mukonzi was killed and 11 others were injured today when suspected Islamic extremists cast a grenade or other explosive at a church in Garissa in eastern Kenya, sources said.
According to a story by Morning Star News, at least three of the 11 injured had wounds so serious they were air-lifted to Kenyatta General Hospital in Nairobi, the sources said.
A source who visited the site told Morning Star News that a grenade or stronger explosive device hit the church in the Administrative Police compound at 10 a.m.
"The explosion was so loud, beyond that of a normal hand grenade," Morning Star News reported the source said. "Church worship services in Garissa ended prematurely, then followed several gun shots."
The grenade was launched through the sheet-iron roof of the church building, he said. It was said to have "landed right at the podium where the chaplain was delivering a church sermon, hitting him right at the forehead, and he died immediately," said the source.
The force of the explosion uprooted a nearby tree, he added.
Morning Star News reported most of the injured suffered head and chest injuries, said one of several pastors who visited four of them at Garissa General Hospital. "Those at Garissa were not seriously injured," he said. "We had the opportunity to pray for them."
Morning Star News reported that home to a church of 100 worshippers, the Administrative Police Church building is located in Garissa's town center in a predominately Muslim area.
The grenade or other device was said to have been launched from behind a fence five meters from the building. Police suspected Islamic extremists from the Somali rebel group Al Shabaab.
Kenya is nearly 83 percent Christian and 8.32 percent Muslim, according to Operation World, but Garissa is rife with Islamic extremists, with a large presence of Al Shabaab rebels.
Morning Star News said Kenyan churches and other facilities have been the target of several bombings and shootings since Kenya sent troops into southern Somalia in Oct. 2011 in response to Al Shabaab kidnappings and other attacks in Kenyan territory.

According to Morning Star News, no information was available at press time about whether suspects had been arrested. The provincial commissioner noted that the concentration of both illegal guns and Al Shabaab rebels in Garissa was high.

The Garissa Pastors Fellowship released a statement saying that more than 20 Christians in the city have recently lost their lives to Islamic terrorist attacks.

"But what concerns us as a church is that to date no commission of inquiry has been set up to carry out investigation of these deaths," Morning Star News reported the statement read.

Al Shabaab presence and attacks on churches and government posts have increased throughout Kenya since the Kenyan-led U.N. intervention force's capture last month of Kismayo, Somalia, formerly a key stronghold of the rebels.

Morning Star News reported that Al Shabaab, which is said to have ties with Al Qaeda, is also suspected in attacks in Nairobi.
On Sept. 30, suspected militants from the group threw a grenade into an Anglican church that killed 9-year-old Ian John Maina. Several other children attending a Sunday school class were seriously injured in the attack on the Anglican Church of Kenya St. Polycarp in the Pagani area, next to Nairobi's largely Somali-immigrant area of Eastleigh.
Al Shabaab, which has been designated a terrorist organization by several Western governments, wants to impose a strict version of sharia (Islamic law) on Somalia.
Morning Star News said the transitional government in Mogadishu fighting the insurgents, however, also treats Christians harshly. President Sheikh Sharif Sheik Ahmed already embraces a version of sharia that mandates the death penalty for those who leave Islam.

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