By Andrea Berman
On Sunday, September 11, at about 10:30 a.m., three women were shot at a police station in Mombasa, a port city in Kenya, according to Al Jazeera. The three women entered the police station wearing traditional hijab under the premise of reporting a stolen phone. Concealed under their robes, however, one was carrying a knife and the other a petrol bomb. Soon upon entering the station, the women drew their weapons, starting a fire in the station, said Patterson Maleo, the police commander of Mombasa County, as reported by CNN.
A witness, Salma Mohamed, told Reuters that one woman jumped onto a counter and stabbed an officer in the thigh. Two officers were injured during the attack, but were in stable condition at the Allianz Worldwide Care Center in Mombasa.
Another witness, Saumu, told Al Jazeera that even as the women were being shot by police officers, they were persistently “shouting ‘Allahu Akbar,’” which means “God is great” in Arabic.
Tasnim Yakub Abdulahi Farah, who was said to be the leader of the group of women in the attack, according to The Star, a Kenyan news source, was shot dead alongside Fatuma Omar and another female suspect whose identity has not yet been confirmed.
A police spokesman, Charles Owino, told The Star that two of the suspects in the attack had bulletproof vests while the third wore a suicide vest. “Had the vest been detonated,” Owino said, “there would have been massive damage.”.
The exact origin of the three women in the attack has not been verified. The three attackers were Kenyans, but they were not locals from Mombasa because they were all staying at a local woman’s house. The police have taken the woman into custody for housing the three attackers.
Additionally, CNN reports that three other suspects who have links to the attackers but were not at the police station during the
attack have been taken into police custody. These three other suspects are believed to be involved in planning the attack. Once two of the attackers were identified, the three suspects were found at the house of one of the female attacker’s family members, who is also a local of Mombasa.
BBC reports that although it is not yet clear who is behind the attack, it is likely that the women belonged to the Shabab militant group. After Kenyan troops were sent to rid Somalia of militants in 2011 under Operation Linda Nchi, the Shabab group began orchestrating attacks against Kenya. The group has also recruited many Kenyans, especially from the large Muslim population in Mombasa, to carry out their attacks.Mombasa, a coastal city, has become a target for several Shabab terrorist attacks, according to Al Jazeera, particularly in 2011 when Operation Linda Nchi, which means “protect the country” in Swahili, began.