Fresh fears in Mombasa as gunmen open fire at church, kill pastor

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Security personnel are pursuing gunmen who opened fire at a church compound in Majengo slums of Mombasa, killing a pastor and sparking fresh fears of a return to insecurity on the island. The motive of the attack has not been established and no group has claimed responsibility for the mid-morning raid that left worshipers scampering for safety. “We have already begun investigations and police will try to get to the bottom of the matter. This however, is an isolated incident because Mombasa has been calm,” said Mombasa County Criminal Investigations Officer, Henry Ondiek. The victim, a popular shopkeeper in Saba Saba – George Karidhimba Muriki of Kimathi Store – was also the secretary of the Maximum Revival Ministry. He was struck several times in the back and appears to have died on the spot. The body lay outside a classroom block at Mvita primary school for hours before police took it away.
The attackers briskly sped away down alleys, apparently outwitting police sentries posted to guard churches in the volatile area. Majengo area is historically insecure and apparently out of police control. There are frequent murders blamed on criminals and drug addicts and violent crime is high. In the past, churches in the area have come under attack from Muslim militants who have twice set fire to the local Salvation Army Church in Majengo following police raids on mosques or murders of radical Muslim vocal clerics. Consequently, some church congregations have sought armed police guards during Sunday service.
Police maintain that a single killer had been stalking the deceased but several witnesses claim two men on a motor-cycle had raced through the estate towards the church before opening fire at the compound without warning. “They carried what looked like gunny bag and appeared to be in a hurry. Not long before they passed here, we heard gun shots,” a resident who sought anonymity explained. Mr Ondiek said at the scene that the deceased was felled by a lone gunman who had been trailing him. ”He was shot moments after he entered the gate that leads to the church and the killer took off when police guarding the premises returned fire,” Ondiek said. Ondiek said the church ministry has leased the classrooms for its Sunday services. “These are temporary places of worship, which also have armed police guards just like ordinary churches,” he said.
Religious war
Head pastor of the Maximum Revival Ministry Martin Ngolwa said he had just taken to the pulpit and was about to deliver the day’s sermon when gunshots rang out. “We had to interrupt church service only to find out that one of our own had been hit,” he said. Another faithful who also has a church within the same premises, Missionary Joseph Juma of the Highland Church of Christ, told of how his congregation took off when they heard the gunshots. “I have been operating in this location since 1990 and have never felt insecure despite our presence in Majengo,” he said. He said his church, which is a few blocks away from the Maximum Revival Ministry had prepared well for a Sunday sermon that touched on reconciliation. “My flock had started streaming in to the church and I was ready to preside over the day’s sermon when all of a sudden all hell broke loose,” he said He added that a third church, End Time Ministry, had vacated the premises in the same area two weeks ago citing security concerns. “Their head pastor had told me they were looking for other premises outside of Mvita since they did not feel secure,” he said. Anthony Njaramba, the chairman of the Christian Foundation of Kenya, which is associated with the Mombasa Church Forum, described the incident as a sad occurrence. “It is sad that innocent blood has been shed. This incident should never be interpreted to mean it is a religious war. It is an act we should all condemn,” Njaramba said.
He asked Christian faithful to be calm and remain vigilant as police investigate the attacks, the most devastating one being the March 23, 2014 attack on Joy Jesus Church in Likoni when gunmen shot dead six worshipers. Several other worshipers were also wounded as the attackers walked away. On June 10, 2013, six people including a ten-year-old child, Dominic Maseno, and Pastor Dominic Osano were wounded when men on a motorcycle hurled a grenade into the premises of the Earthquake Miracle Ministries in Likoni, Mombasa. On March 31, 2012, a woman was hit and killed when unknown attackers in a moving vehicle hurled an explosive at an open air church gathering in Mtwapa, Kilifi County.
The Salvation Army Church in Majengo was set on fire on August 27, 2012 following the murder of radical Islamist Sheikh Aboud Rogo Mohamed. The orgy of violence that followed Rogo’s murder led to several deaths including those of three security officers and torching of several churches on Mombasa island and in Kisauni.
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