GARISSA (Kenya): Gunmen from the Islamist militant group Al Shabaab stormed a university in Kenya and killed at least 147 people on Thursday, in the worst attack on Kenyan soil since the US embassy was bombed in 1998.

The siege ended nearly 15 hours after the Somali group’s gunmen shot their way into the Garissa University College campus in a pre-dawn attack, sparing Muslim students and taking many Christians hostage.

Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery said four gunmen strapped with explosives were behind the attack, the same number that killed 67 people during the 2013 bloodbath at a shopping mall in Nairobi.


Dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed on four regions near Somalia border


“The operation has ended successfully. Four terrorists have been killed,” he told Kenyan media.

Kenyan police chief Joseph Boinet said the attackers had “shot indiscriminately” when they entered the university compound.

Police and soldiers surrounded the campus and exchanged gunfire with the attackers throughout the day but were repeatedly repelled. At least 79 people were injured and many airlifted to Nairobi, Kenya’s national disaster body said.

Al Shabaab militants, who carried out the deadly attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in 2013, claimed responsibility for the raid on the campus in Garissa, a town 200km from the Somali border.

The group has links to Al Qaeda and a record of raids on Kenyan soil in retaliation for Nairobi sending troops to fight it in its home country of Somalia.

Al Qaeda bombed the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on the same day in 1998, killing 224 people and wounding thousands of people.

The United States condemned the latest attack and offered Kenya help in fighting Al Shabaab.

One image provided by a local journalist showed a dozen blood-soaked bodies strewn across a single university classroom in Garissa. But some students managed to escape unaided.

“We heard some gunshots and we were sleeping so it was around five and guys started jumping up and down running for their lives,” an unnamed student said.

Authorities offered a $215,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a man called Mohamed Mohamud, described as “most wanted” and linked to the attack.

Police chief Boinet said Kenya had imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on four regions near the Somalia border.

Al Shabaab, which seeks to impose its own version of Sharia, has separated Muslims from Christians in some of its previous raids in Kenya, notably late last year in attacks on a bus and at a quarry.

Its repeated raids, together with attacks on churches by home-grown Islamist groups, have strained the cordial relations between Kenya’s Muslim and Christian communities.

Having killed more than 200 people in Kenya over the past two years, Al Shabaab has also brought the tourism industry to its knees.

Thursday’s attack undermined a renewed drive by President Uhuru Kenyatta to persuade foreigners the country is now safe to visit.

On Wednesday, he had urged Kenyans abroad to help attract tourists back despite the wave of militant violence, criticising a warning from Australia of a possible attack in Nairobi and an advisory from Britain urging its citizens to avoid most coastal resorts.

Grace Kai, a student at the Garissa Teachers Training College near the university, said there had been warnings that an attack in the town could be imminent.

“Some strangers had been spotted in Garissa town and were suspected to be terrorists,” she said.

“Then on Monday our college principal told us ... that strangers had been spotted in our college... On Tuesday we were released to go home, and our college closed, but the campus remained in session, and now they have been attacked.”

Many Kenyans living in the crime-ridden frontier regions blame the government for not doing enough to protect its citizens from the militants.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2015

On a mobile phone? Get the Dawn Mobile App: Apple Store | Google Play

Opinion

Editorial

Updated 22 May, 2022

Back in the game?

WITH the new government struggling to make crucial decisions independently, Pakistan’s ‘parallel governance...
22 May, 2022

Currency concerns

IN the midst of the power struggle in the country, the rupee slid past 200 to a dollar in the interbank market last...
Updated 22 May, 2022

Shireen Mazari’s arrest

Abuse of power can never be condoned, regardless of who it targets or from where it emanates.
Updated 21 May, 2022

Band-aid measure

A more pronounced impact would have been possible had the cap on energy prices been removed.
21 May, 2022

Bilawal’s defence

BILAWAL Bhutto-Zardari’s robust defence at the UN headquarters of former prime minister Imran Khan’s Feb 24 trip...
21 May, 2022

Yasin Malik’s conviction

THE conviction of veteran Kashmiri freedom fighter and head of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front Yasin Malik by an...