gunmen rampaged through Garissa University College in northeastern
Kenya (dawn Thursday local time), killing 147 people. Four
militants from the Somalia-based militant group were slain by security
forces to end the siege just after dusk local time.
A spokesman for al-Shabaab said during the siege that the group was inside the campus and had released Muslim students.
“We’ve killed many people; Kenyans will be shocked when they go inside,” he was quoted by the BBC as saying.
One student who witnessed the attack, Collins Wetangula, said
he could hear militants opening doors and asking those hiding inside if
they were Muslim or Christian. “If you were a Christian you were shot on
the spot,” he said. “With each blast of the gun I thought I was going
As the students were gunned down, others ran for their lives with bullets whistling through the air.
the massacre, the men took dozens of hostages in a dormitory as they
battled troops and police before the operation ended after about 13
hours, witnesses said.
When gunfire from the Kenyan security
forces struck the attackers, the militants exploded “like bombs”,
Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery said, adding that the shrapnel
wounded some of the officers.
Al-Shabaab spokesman Ali Mohamud
Rage said fighters from the group were responsible. The al-Qaeda-linked
group has been blamed for a series of attacks in Kenya, including the
siege at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in 2013 that killed 67 people, as
well as other violence in the north. The group has vowed to retaliate
against Kenya for sending troops to Somalia in 2011 to prevent the
militants staging cross-border attacks.
Most of the 147 dead were
students, but two security guards, one policeman and one soldier also
were killed in the attack, Nkaissery said.
At least 79 people
were wounded at the campus 145km from the Somali border, he said. Some
of the more seriously wounded were flown to Nairobi for treatment.
A dusk-to-dawn curfew was ordered in Garissa and three nearby counties.
Students take shelter in a vehicle after fleeing gunmen. Photo / AP
One suspected extremist was arrested as he tried to flee, Nkaissery told a news conference in Nairobi.
identified a possible mastermind of the attack as Mohammed Mohamud, who
is alleged to lead al-Shabaab’s cross-border raids into Kenya, and they
posted a US$220,000 ($292,890) bounty for him. Also known by the names
Dulyadin and Gamadhere, he was a teacher at an Islamic religious school,
or madrassa, and claimed responsibility for a bus attack in Makka,
Kenya, in November that killed 28 people.
Collins Wetangula told
the Associated Press that he was preparing to take a shower when he
heard gunshots coming from Tana dorm, which hosts both men and women,
The campus has six dorms and at least 887 students, he
said. When he heard the gunshots, he locked himself and three roommates
in their room, said Wetangula, who is vice chairman of the university’s
“All I could hear were footsteps and gunshots.
Nobody was screaming because they thought this would lead the gunmen to
know where they are,” he said.
He added: “The gunmen were saying, ‘Sisi ni al-Shabaab’,” – Swahili for “We are al-Shabaab.”
heard the attackers arrive at his dormitory, open the doors and ask if
the people who had hidden inside were Muslims or Christians.
“If you were a Christian, you were shot on the spot,” he said.
gunmen then started shooting rapidly, as if exchanging fire, Wetangula
said. “The next thing, we saw people in military uniform through the
window of the back of our rooms who identified themselves as the Kenyan
military,” he said. The soldiers took him and around 20 others to
The attack began about 5:30am local time, as morning
prayers were under way at the university mosque, where worshippers were
not attacked, said Augustine Alanga, a 21-year-old student.
least five heavily armed, masked gunmen opened fire outside his
dormitory, turning intense almost immediately and setting off panic, he
told the AP by telephone.
The shooting kept some students indoors
but scores of others fled through barbed-wire fencing around the
campus, with the gunmen firing at them, he said.
“I am just now recovering from the pain as I injured myself while trying to escape. I was running barefoot,” Alanga said.
As terrified students streamed out of buildings, arriving police officers took cover.
Kenya’s National Police Service said a “fierce shootout” ensued as police guarded the dorms.
who was rescued by troops, said one soldier instructed a group of
students to run and to dive for cover at their command as they ran to
“We started running and bullets were whizzing past our heads, and the soldiers told us to dive,” Wetangula said.
The soldier told students later that al-Shabaab snipers were perched on a three-storey dormitory called the Elgon, he said.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has been under pressure to deal with insecurity caused by a string of attacks by al-Shaabab.
a speech to the country, he said he had directed the police chief to
speed up the training of 10,000 police recruits because Kenya has
“suffered unnecessarily due to shortage of security personnel”.
Kenya’s northern and eastern regions near the Somali border have seen many attacks blamed on al-Shabaab.
Last month, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for attacks in Mandera county on the Somali border in which 12 people died.
Police said 312 people have been killed in al-Shabaab attacks in Kenya from 2012 to 2014.
week, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for a siege at a Mogadishu
hotel that left 24 people dead, including six attackers.
Timeline: Al-Shabaab attacks
Militants stormed the Maka al-Mukarramah Hotel in Somalia’s capital,
Mogadishu. At least 24 people, including six attackers, were killed. The
battle lasted more than 12 hours as Somalia’s security forces tried to
dislodge the gunmen who had taken control of parts of the hotel.
Twenty-five people were killed and 40 wounded in suicide attacks at the
Central Hotel in Mogadishu. Government officials were meeting at the
hotel at the time, and Mogadishu’s deputy mayor and two politicians
were among the dead.
December 2014 Gunmen roused
sleeping quarry workers in the dead of night in northern Kenya. After
separating out the non-Muslims by asking them to recite the Islamic
creed, the attackers killed 36 of them – most with a gunshot to the back
of the head.
November 2014 Gunmen attacked a
bus in northern Kenya at dawn, targeting and killing 28 passengers who
could not recite the Islamic creed and were assumed to be non-Muslims.
Militants used grenades and assault rifles to attack the Westgate
shopping mall in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, killing at least 67 people.
Most of the 147 victims of a terror attack on a Kenyan university on
Thursday died execution-style as they lined up waiting for their turn to
be shot, a senior Kenyan government source has told The Telegraph.
students were killed as they spoke to their parents on the telephone,
having been ordered to call with messages from the gunmen that their aim
was to force Kenyan troops to leave Somalia, the source added.
is the level of depravity that we are dealing with, it is something
beyond the comprehension of anyone normal like you or I,” the source,
who spoke anonymously, said. “These are not people who can be reasoned
with, only force can stop them.”
claimed as their own after they stormed Garissa University in
northeastern Kenya, also told students they were “here to make your
Easter holidays better” and warned of further attacks to come, survivors
Maureen Manyengo, a 21-year-old Christian from western
Kenyan who was training to be a teacher, described how she hid inside
her wardrobe after seeing several friends killed.
“I could hear the attackers telling my friends, ‘Do not worry, we will kill you, but we will die too’,” she said.
said the terrorists also told the cowering students: “We are not bad
guys, we are just here to make your Easter Holiday better.”
Nyaora, an aid worker who was among the first to enter the university
after the terrorists’ final clash with Kenyan special forces late on
Thursday afternoon, described seeing women rise from among the corpses
covered in blood but unscathed.
“I have seen many things, but
nothing like that,” said Mr Nyaora. “There were bodies everywhere in
execution lines, we saw people whose heads had been blown off, bullet
wounds everywhere. It was a grisly mess.”
So far, 147 people have
been confirmed dead and 79 injured in Kenya’s worst terror attack for
two decades, but officials have admitted that the death toll could climb
higher still as piles of bodies are recounted.
questions remained about how the 15-hour siege reached its final bloody
end and how the death toll jumped from 70 in the late afternoon to 147
just over an hour later.
Kenya’s interior minister confirmed the
gunmen had been strapped with explosives and blew up “like bombs” as
they were shot by an elite special forces squad.
Kenyan Muslims demonstrate against the attack and in solidarity with those Christians targeted in the attack. Photo / AP
The Telegraph’s government source said that when the
squad reached the room where the attackers were holed up, they had just
six hostages with them, whom they killed. They then denoted their vests
as they died in a hail of bullets, the source added.
gates of Garissa University, soldiers kept large crowds of sobbing
relatives at bay as inside, the bodies of those killed were recounted.
am so worried, I had a son who was among the students trapped inside
the college, and since yesterday I have heard nothing,” said Habel
Mutinda, an elderly man, his face streaming with tears.
to identify his body among those killed. I have to do that before the
body goes bad in the heat. I have been camping overnight. It is really
hard, it hurts.”
The gunmen targeted Christians over Muslims
according to al-Qaeda guidelines the terrorists who attacked the
Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi two years ago also followed.
witness described how they headed directly to a lecture hall where
Christian students had gathered for an early morning prayer session.
told how Muslim classmates tried to dissuade them from their murderous
spree, but were ordered to go to the college’s mosque where they were
told they would be safe from harm.
Kenya’s government, which has
faced criticism for its failure to act on intelligence to combat
threats, said it would not be “intimidated or humiliated” by what
“The government is determined to fight back the
terrorists, and I am confident we shall win this war against our
enemies,” said Joseph Nkaissery, the Interior Minister.
leaders offered their condolences and renewed pledges of support to the
Kenyan government in tackling the terror threat. Pope Francis said in a
statement he would pray for a “change of heart” by the terrorists.
union with all people of good will throughout the world, His Holiness
condemns this act of senseless brutality,” The Vatican said in a
Questions are now being asked about how the
authorities reacted to intelligence that an attack was imminent,
potentially on a university, and whether it has learned lessons from its
haphazard response to the Westgate attack, in which 72 people died.
Aling’o, senior researcher with the Institute for Security Studies in
Nairobi, said al-Shabaab was taking advantage of “gaps” in Kenya’s
intelligence-led security planning.
“I think Kenya hasn’t learnt
anything at all in terms of how to respond to terror attacks,” he said.
“What we are seeing is a knee-jerk reaction that sends in security
personnel in a manner that suggests they are not completely aware of
what they are responding to.”
Some of those who escaped
Thursday’s massacre said posters had been put up around campus and the
university’s administrators warned about an imminent attack but they
were “ignored” or dismissed as an April Fool’s prank.
there were those notices, but as it was April 1, we just thought that it
was fooling,” a student named only as Katherine told AFP.
from a nearby teacher training college said they too had been warned
that “strangers” suspected to be terrorists had been spotted in Garissa
in the days leading up to the attack. As a result, their college was
closed and they were sent home.
Five people have been arrested in
connection with an attack, CNN reported on Friday evening, citing
Joseph Nkaissery, the Kenyan Interior Minister.
He added that the university would be able to confirm on Saturday whether everyone had been accounted for.
A woman is helped after viewing the body of a relative killed at Garissa University in Kenya. Photo / AP
A 20-year-old student called her father from a university besieged by
Islamic militants and told him, “There are gunshots everywhere! Tell
Mum to pray for me — I don’t know if I will survive.”
The call by
Elizabeth Namarome Musinai at dawn on Thursday was one of several her
family received as the attack and hostage drama unfolded at Garissa
University College, where al-Shabab militants killed 148 people.
1 pm, a man got on the line and demanded Kenyan President Uhuru
Kenyatta be contacted within two minutes and told to remove troops from
neighbouring Somalia, where they are fighting al-Shabab extremists.
told the president had not been contacted, he said, “I am going to kill
your daughter.” Three gunshots followed, and he hung up. When
Elizabeth’s father, Fred Kaskon Musinai, called the man back, he said he
was told: “She is now with her God.”
Survivors and relatives gave other harrowing accounts of the
siege by Islamic extremists as Kenya mourns the victims of the attack,
the deadliest since the 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi that
killed more than 200 people.
Survivors recounted how the masked gunmen taunted students before killing them.
Many were forced to phone their parents to urge them to call for Kenyan troops to leave Somalia — and were shot anyway.
the gunmen prowled the corridors hunting down more people to kill, some
students smeared blood from their dead friends over their bodies to
pretend they had been shot.
“There were bodies everywhere in
execution lines, we saw people whose heads had been blown off, bullet
wounds everywhere, it was a grisly mess,” said Reuben Nyaora, an aid
worker who helped the wounded.
Just before darkness fell, Kenyan
troops moved in on the dormitory where the gunmen were holed up. The
siege ended with four gunmen killed in a hail of gunfire, and one
suspect reportedly arrested. At least 79 people were also wounded. Those
killed were students apart from three policemen and three soldiers.
masked attackers — strapped with explosives and armed with AK-47s —
singled out Christians at the university, killing them on the spot. But
Muslims also were among the dead, as were women, even though the
attackers had said at one point that they, too, would be spared.
bodies of the 148 students and security officers have been flown to the
Nairobi morgue where screaming and crying family members were assisted
by Red Cross staff, who tried to console them.
Survivor Helen Titus said the gunmen immediately headed for a lecture hall where Christians were at prayer.
investigated our area. They knew everything,” said Titus, a Christian,
who was being treated in Garissa for a bullet wound to the wrist. The
21-year-old English literature student said she smeared blood from
classmates on her face and hair and played dead at one point.
The gunmen also told students hiding in dormitories to come out, assuring them that they would not be killed, Titus said.
“We just wondered whether to come out or not,” she said. Many students did, and the gunmen shot them anyway.
survivor, Nina Kozel, said she was awakened by screaming. Many students
hid in vain under beds and in closets in their rooms, she added.
“They were shot there and then,” she said, adding that the killers shouted “God is great” in Arabic.
Those who surrendered were either selected for killing, or freed in some cases, apparently because they were Muslim, she said.
has struck several times in Kenya, including the siege at the Westgate
Mall in Nairobi in 2013 that killed 67 people, to retaliate against
Kenya for sending troops to Somalia in 2011 to fight the militants and
stabilise the government in Mogadishu.
Pope Francis condemned the
latest attack as an act of senseless brutality and urged Kenyan
authorities to work to bring an end to such attacks and “hasten the dawn
of a new era of brotherhood, justice and peace”.
The UN Security Council expressed outrage — a word it rarely uses — in condemning the attack.
President Barack Obama expressed condolences “for the lives lost during the heinous terrorist attack”.
future of Kenya will not be defined by violence and terror; it will be
shaped by young people like those at Garissa University College.”
The attack came six days after Britain advised “against all but essential travel” to parts of Kenya, including Garissa.
day before the attack, Kenyatta dismissed that warning saying: “Kenya
is safe as any country in the world. The travel advisories being issued
by our friends are not genuine.”
One man posted a photo on
Twitter showing about 100 bodies lying face-down on a blood-smeared
courtyard with the comment: “Our inaction is betrayal to these Garissa
On Friday, a huge crowd of traumatised survivors and
relatives gathered at the university gate, desperate for news of who was
killed or wounded. The toll was set at 148 after emergency workers had
scoured the campus for bodies.
US President Barack Obama. Photo / Getty Images
US President Barack Obama called Kenya’s leader and vowed to stand
“hand-in-hand” with its government and people Friday, as they reel from
an Islamist attack that killed 148 university students and security
“Words cannot adequately condemn the terrorist
atrocities that took place at Garissa University College, where innocent
men and women were brazenly and brutally massacred,” Obama said.
Shebab Islamists have claimed responsibility for the attack, which was
Kenya’s deadliest since the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi,
and the bloodiest ever by the Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants.
will make a long-awaited return to Kenya this July, visiting his
father’s homeland for the first time since becoming US president.
know firsthand the extraordinary resilience and fundamental decency of
the people of Kenya. So I know that the people of Garissa and all of
Kenya will grieve, but their determination to achieve a better and more
secure future will not be deterred,” Obama said.
“The future of Kenya will not be defined by violence and
terror; it will be shaped by young people like those at Garissa
University College,” he added.
“This is a message I will relay to the Kenyan people when I visit Kenya in July.”
Obama also called Kenyan leader Uhuru Kenyatta to offer his and the First Lady Michelle Obama’s condolences.
much of Obama’s time in power, Kenya’s President Kenyatta had been
under investigation by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
was indicted on five counts of crimes against humanity for his alleged
role in 2007-08 post-election violence that killed an estimated 1,200
The 53-year-old son of Kenya’s founding father protested his innocence until the case was withdrawn in December.
Obama said that “he looks forward to meeting with President Kenyatta again in Nairobi in July,” the White House said.
two leaders will discuss how to strengthen counterterrorism cooperation
and continue to work together to build a safer and more prosperous
future for Kenya and the broader region.”