Militant group tells Christians to leave north-eastern Kenya

Members of al Shabaab, al Qaeda-linked insurgents, ride in a pick-up truck after distributing relief to famine-stricken internally displaced people at Ala Yaasir camp, outside Somalia's capital Mogadishu, September 3, 2011.(Photo: Reuters/Feisal Omar)

A terrorist group with links to al-Qaeda has told Christians to leave north-eastern Kenya.

Al-Shabaab has "ordered" Christians to leave the counties of Garissa, Wajir and Mandera so that Muslim professionals can take their jobs, International Christian Concern reports.

The three counties all border Somalia, where al-Shabaab is based. 

"Muslim teachers, doctors, engineers, and young graduates from the northeastern province are unemployed. Isn't it better to give them a chance? There is no need for the presence of disbelievers," said al-Shabaab spokesman, Sheikh Ali Dhere, in an audio clip posted online. 

Rev Cosmas Mwinzi, an Assemblies of God minister in Garissa, told International Christian Concern that he was not surprised by the threat. 

"This is not news at all because the conduct of the local people here has always suggested that they want us to leave," he said.

"This region has been unstable for years due to war in Somalia and hatred against non-locals who are mostly Christians.

"The levels of education and infrastructure in the three counties are low and it is only through the expertise and hard work of the non-locals that the living standard of the Somali people in Kenya can improve.

"We have non-locals in all sectors, from health to education."

Al-Shabaab has brought terror to north-eastern Kenya in recent years, with no signs of it diminishing. 

In January, three Christian teachers were killed in the town of Kamuthe, Garissa, in a suspected al-Shabaab attack. 

Then last week, militants believed to members of al-Shabaab killed three people, two of them Christians, in an attack on a bus travelling to Nairobi from a market town close to the border with Somalia and Ethiopia. 

Nathan Johnson, Africa manager at International Christian Concern, said the latest threat was "terrible news" for Christians living in the region. 

"They already live with increased fear and anxiety, as many have had to travel to find work," he said.

"Now with this threat, it is clear that al-Shabaab will be increasing attacks on Christians who are simply trying to provide for their families."