Muslims save Christian workers from attack by militants in north-east Kenya

Al-Shabab militants parade at Ala Yaasir camp, outside of Somalia's capital Mogadishu, in this Sept. 3, 2011 file photo.Reuters

The intervention of Muslims has been credited with saving the lives of around 20 Christian workers on a construction site in north-eastern Kenya.

The Christian workers were building a goverment hospital in Kutulo, in Mandera County, when they were warned by local Muslims of an imminent attack by al-Shabaab militants. 

According to local media reports, Muslims told them to quickly leave the construction site and helped them to safety. 

"They confronted the gunmen who proceeded to the site and failed to get what they wanted. [The attackers] opened fire but no one was injured before they escaped," north-eastern regional commissioner Mohamed Birik told media.

The region is home to a Muslim majority and borders with Somalia, where al-Shabaab is based.  The terrorist group is linked to al-Qaeda and has vowed to kill Christians in Kenya until there are none left. 

An Open Doors worker in Kenya, who cannot be named for security reasons, praised the intervention of Muslims in Kutulo, calling it a "show of solidarity from locals".

The Open Doors worker said: "The area feels more like Somalia than Kenya and usually is a very hostile place for Christians.

"Most of believers who live here came here from other areas of the country for work and some for ministry. But they are treated like unwanted outsiders and face a lot of harassment and the continuous threat of targeted al-Shabaab attacks.

"Please thank the Lord with us that another bloodbath was prevented. Pray that this kind of action will become the new norm in this area. Pray for the protection over those who took this bold move."

Somalia ranks third on the Open Doors World Watch List of countries with the worst persecution of Christians. 

Al-Shabaab has stated publicly that it "wants Somalia free of all Christians" and many believers there are forced to practise their faith in secret.  

While Kenya is number 40 on the Open Doors World Watch List, al-Shabaab has carried out attacks on Christians there too, including a deadly assault on Garissa University in 2015 in which 148 mostly Christians were killed.