147 died in Kenya college massacre
Al-Shabab gunmen rampaged through a university in northeastern Kenya at dawn yesterday, killing 147 people in the group’s deadliest attack in the East African country.
Four militants were killed by security forces to end the siege just after dusk.
The masked attackers, strapped with explosives and armed with AK-47s, singled out non-Muslim students at Garissa University College and then gunned them down without mercy.
The men took dozens of hostages in a dormitory for several hours as they battled troops and police before the operation was ended after about 13 hours.
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-Shabab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage said fighters from the Somalia-based extremist group were responsible.
The al-Qaida-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.
Most of the 147 dead were students, but two security guards, a policeman and a soldier were also killed.
At least 79 people were wounded at the campus, 145km from the Somali border. A dusk-to-dawn curfew was ordered in Garissa and three nearby counties.
Police identified a possible mastermind of the attack as Mohammed Mohamud, who is alleged to lead al-Shabab’s cross-border raids into Kenya.
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, last November that killed 28 people.
One of the survivors of yesterday’s attack, Collins Wetangula, said he was preparing to take a shower when he heard gunshots coming from Tana dorm, which hosts both men and women, 150m away. The campus has six dorms and at least 887 students.
When he heard the gunshots, he locked himself and three roommates in their room, said Wetangula.
“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.
Mr Wetangula 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,” he said. “With each blast of the gun, I thought I was going to die.
“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.”
The attack began about 5.30am as morning prayers were under way at the university mosque, where worshippers were not attacked, said student Augustine Alanga (21).
At least five heavily armed and masked gunmen opened fire outside his dormitory, setting off panic.
The shooting kept some students indoors but scores of others fled through barbed-wire fencing around the campus, with the gunmen firing at them.
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.
Three of the dorms were evacuated, with the gunmen holed up in a fourth.
Michael Bwana, a 20-year-old student, said he and other survivors tried to call their friends trapped in a dormitory, but their phones were switched off – either by their owners to keep them from ringing or by the gunmen who have seized them.”