Kenya honour for Muslim hero who protected Christian bus passengers

image copyrightJill Craig / VOA
image captionSalah Farah died in surgery a month after the attack in December

A Muslim teacher in Kenya who protected Christians on a bus after it was attacked by Islamist militants has been posthumously honoured for his bravery.

Salah Farah was shot in the attack in north-eastern Kenya in December and later died from his bullet wound.

The insurgents told the Muslims and Christians to split up but he was among Muslim passengers who refused to do so.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said he was awarding the Order Of The Grand Warrior to Mr Farah "for his act of courage".

It is one of the country's top honours and is awarded by the president for exemplary service to the country.

In previous attacks in the area, Somalia-based al-Shabab militants have killed Christians and spared Muslims.

'Proud of Kenyan unity'

Mr Kenyatta made the announcement during his state of the union address in parliament.

He said that he was proud that Kenyan had "refused to be divided by terrorism".

The bus was packed with about 60 passengers travelling from the capital, Nairobi, to the town of Mandera when it was forced to stop on 20 December by gunmen firing shots.

Muslim women quickly offered Christian women scarves to cover their heads when they were ordered off the bus near the village of El Wak on the Somali border.

The year before, a survivor of a similar attack recounted how passengers had been spared if they could recite the Koran.

But Mr Farah, the deputy head of the Mandera township primary school, told Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper that the Muslim passengers had confronted the gunmen.

"We asked them to kill all of us or leave us alone," he said.

image copyrightAFP
image captionThis is the bus that was attacked in November 2014 - the militants killed 28 passengers

While this confrontation continued, a lorry approached and the militants ambushed this vehicle too, killing an off-duty policeman.

The BBC's Bashkas Jugsodaay in Garissa says the militants then abandoned their attempt to kill the Christian bus passengers as the Muslims were refusing to co-operate with them.

Altogether three people died at the scene of the incident, including two passengers - one of whom had tried to run away - and at least two were wounded.

Mr Farah died a month later in the capital, Nairobi, during surgery.

Our reporter says the mainly Muslim north-east is heavily dependent on teachers and health workers who come to work there from other parts of Kenya.

But in a brutal bus attack in November 2014, 20 of the 28 passengers killed were teachers returning home for the Christmas holidays.

This led many civil servants to refuse to return to their posts - not helped by the deadly attack on Garissa University last April.

Al-Shabab has been at war with Kenya ever since Kenyan forces entered Somalia in October 2011 in an effort to crush the al Qaeda-linked militants.

Kenya's north-eastern region has a large population of ethnic Somalis.

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