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Scare as residents mistake Muslim pilgrims for Al Shabaab

15 July 2015, 08:13 Dareel Eric

Vihiga - A security scare engulfed Lunyerere village in Sabatia district, Vihiga County after unknown people arrived at Bo Yussuf mosque ahead of Id ul Fitr celebrations.

The 11 people, on a pilgrimage from Mandera County, caused fear among the residents who fled their homes for fear that the pilgrims could be Al Shabaab on a mission to wage an attack in the area.

The public alerted police and national intelligence service officers who cordoned off the mosque for about an hour as the residents watched in fear.

Journalists were barred from taking pictures as the security personnel advanced into the mosque to wade off any possible attack.

Learning in the neighbouring school, Bo Yussuf Muslim Primary school, was also halted during the scare.

They later managed to bring out the pilgrims thought to be Al Shabaab by the residents and searched their luggage.

Read Also: Use Ramadan to counter youth radicalisation, clerics told

It was then that police learnt that the suspected terrorists were on a pilgrimage.

The police however left after taking photocopies of their identity cards but declined to divulge any information to the anxious journalists.

Their leader, Sheikh Amir Abdi Fatar Ali, later addressed journalists and assured residents that they were on a good mission regarding their faith.

"Police should not mistake any Muslim for Al Shabaab. There is a big difference between Al Shabaab and Islamic religion," said the Sheikh.

He added, "We arrived on Monday night and talked to the local administration. We were assured that all was well and allowed to proceed with our pilgrimage."

The pilgrims said they would camp at the mosque for one week.

Sheikh Ali further reminded the police the Constitution guarantees freedom of worship and said no one needed a permit to worship regardless of the faith they professed.

This was the first time Muslims from other areas of the country were arriving in the County for a similar occasion, a move that further scared the locals.

A resident, Wilson Luvai, hailed the police for their swift action.

"The nyumba kumi initiative is what made the locals of this area aware of strangers in their midst," said Luvai.

He said the locals were mostly scared when the pilgrims arrived carrying unidentified luggage.

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