By Standard Team
Kenyans worshipped under the watch of armed security officers as reality sunk in that Al-Shabaab is keen on making most churches and some mosques their playground and killing fields.
Just as Kenyans woke up on Sunday, breakfasted, picked their Bibles and raced to church to pray with their families, so did officers assigned to guard them oil their guns and rush to take positions at the church gates.
They then frisked the faithful and swept their bodies and bags using metal detectors, just in case some of them bore arms or explosives, and not even the children were spared the security clearance, hitherto unseen in churches.
The unspoken fear of what happened in Garissa last Sunday, when gunmen sprayed police officers at the gate with bullets, killing one of the who was a Muslim, and thereafter hurling explosives at those in the prayer hall lurked in every mind.
After the guns fell silent, 17 people lay dead, victims of reprisal attacks against Kenya Defence Force’s operation inside Somalia.
As recent killings in church have shown, neither those assigned to keep guard nor the innocent faithful are safe. When terror strikes, it does so chillingly and in large scale.
But what has aggravated the sense of fear in the country is not just the pattern of attacks targeting churchgoers, but reports by security intelligence that six terror suspects are on the prowl and are said to be targeting mosques with the hope of setting Muslims and Christians against each other.
A spot check by The Standard around most urban churches countrywide showed how worshippers were forced to form long queues and slowly file through security checks, as if they were entering a security facility like military barrack. As they were screened, police officers pulled off the routine duty assignments such as highway and foot patrols, kept watch.
Security was tightened at most churches in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nyanza, North Eastern, Coast and Rift valley in the wake of terror threats in the country.
Police headquarters confirmed hundreds of police officers have been deployed to the churches to thwart any form of attacks that may come from terrorists.