Kenya enters Ramadan with threats from al-Shabaab

By June 17, 2015

(Photo courtesy Assist News)

Kenya (MNN) — The Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab says they’re planning to attack border targets soon. Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA, explains, “We’ve seen threats from al-Shabaab against Kenya, specifically pointing to Ramadan that ‘Ramadan’s coming. We’re going to give the Kenyan non-believers (non-Muslims) a true taste of jihad during the Ramadan season.'”

Claiming it has already infiltrated the region, the group says attacks were mainly planned in Kenya’s northeastern province that borders Somalia. Why now? “I think everywhere radical Islam is on the march, the Christians know that Ramadan is a high-risk time.” Ramadan begins at midnight, June 17. Nettleton says during the month, most Muslims will fast from dawn until dusk, seeking to shed their sins through acts of restraint. They believe this is a time of purification accomplished through good deeds and self-control. Christians are targeted as non-believers.

Al-Shabaab has stepped up their game in the last couple years, Nettleton adds. “This is a group that has attacked a major shopping mall. They are a group that has attacked a major university. They have shown the ability, tactically, and manpower-wise, to make large scale attacks. I am sure that the security services in Kenya are taking this threat very seriously.”

The goal of al-Shabaab: to turn Somalia into a fundamentalist Islamic state, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Why hit Kenya? Al Shabaab has targeted Kenya since 2011, when Kenyan troops entered Somalia to help the government fight the group.

(Photo Kenyan church courtesy Flickr/CC/Lain Cunningham)

(Photo Kenyan church courtesy Flickr/CC/Lain Cunningham)

The ideology seems similar to that of the Islamic State terror group. Nettleton couldn’t explain why al-Shabaab hasn’t pledged loyalty to IS, as has Boko Haram. In an earlier interview, he thought leaders of various fundamentalist Islamist groups would be unable to share power. This may be what’s keeping al-Shabaab out of ISIS influence and money. Other theories include intra-group rivalries and clan interests delaying a loyalty pledge.

Regardless, the risk to non-Muslims in areas where al-Shabaab plans to strike is high. “We want to pray for protection. We want to pray that God’s hand would be over them that they would not be victimized in these attacks.”

Also, the future of the Kenyan church appears precarious. Some reports from watchdog groups like Open Doors USA indicate that the government’s stance towards religious institutions is becoming less and less positive even as the church faces intensifying levels of persecution. To that end, Nettleton urges us to be praying for encouragement for outreach workers. “I think we want to pray that they’ll have wisdom to know how to plant Gospel seeds during this time.”

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