Seven Christians were killed in Kenya earlier this month by militants from the extremist group al-Shabaab, according to a persecution watchdog group’s report on Monday.
International Christian Concern reported that during al-Shabaab’s raids in three villages — Pandanguo, Jima, and Poromoko — between July 5 and 8, the militants went door to door in the latter two villages, asking for IDs and killing seven Christian men. The report adds that Christian families in the two regions were evacuated to a church in Witu.
“The attackers have been targeting Christians living in Lamu County especially famers in the interior areas where small-scale agriculture thrives,” Pastor Henry Divayo, who leads the Witu church to which the families were evacuated, told ICC.
Divayo added that the al-Shabaab militants in Jima “were asking the villagers to produce their identification cards and if you were found to be a Christian you would be shot or slaughtered.”
According to Divayo, more than 200 are currently finding shelter at his church, and food and security is being provided by the government and the Kenya Red Cross.
Al-Shabaab has been known to target Christians in particular. One of its most well-known attacks included one at Garissa University in 2015, during which almost 150 students were killed. Most of the students were Christians.
More recently in June of 2016, militants killed 48 people in Lamu County who were unable to recite verses from the Quran.
Nathan Johnson, the regional manager for Africa for the ICC, emphasized the need for greater safety and stability to be secured by the government.
“[The government] must end al-Shabaab’s reign of terror that has been thriving on the border with Somalia,” Johnson said in a statement.
“We pray for the families of the deceased and for peace to come to a region that has seen such violence towards Christians,” he added. “We hope that Kenya’s government can take effective action to rid Kenya of these terrorist actions.”
Al-Shabaab, which means ‘The Youth,’ emerged as a radical youth extremist group in 2006, and pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2012.
It is recognized as a terrorist organization by multiple countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Though the group is mostly based in Somalia, it has carried out numerous attacks in Kenya because it alleged that Kenya had sent troops into Somali territory.