On Thursday, April 2, members linked to the Al-Qaeda group, al-Shabaab, killed 147 students, and left 70 others injured or hospitalized. Four masked gunmen marched into Garissa University College in Kenya demanding to know if the students were Christian or Muslim. Many Christians were shot immediately. Chaos ensued as students and faculty fled in every direction.
According to CBS, the president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, was said to have sent in security forces in an attempt to get rid of the al-Shabaab gunmen. By the time the security arrived, a 13-hour shootout began between the military and al-Shabaab forces. One student from the University recollected hiding under her bed for 13 hours as she listened to the gunmen shoot students who could not recite passages from the Quran.
The gunmen appeared to be laughing and taunting the students as the killing rampage continued. A second-year teaching student, Amuna Geoffreys, said he was at a Christian prayer meeting when the attack began. He quickly got up to hide in a bush, but listened as he heard the gunmen threatening his classmates. As he lay motionless and fearing for his and his classmates’ lives, he could hear the gunmen instruct the students to call their parents and explain to them why they were going to die. The blame for this attack was placed on Kenyatta for sending Kenyan troops to Somalia to fight the Shabaab.
“After they called their parents, they were shot, and then silence,” Geoffreys told AFP.
In 2011, Kenya declared war on a Somali Islamist group to combat the al-Shabaab, which they had blamed for multiple kidnappings inside the Kenyan territory. In response, al-Shabaab initiated a holy war between Christianity and Islam.
On Sunday, April 5, one of the gunmen was identified as the son of a Kenyan government chief. The chief reported his son missing last year and feared he had run away to Somalia, according to spokesperson Mwenda Njoka. News of the Kenyan gunmen highlights problems faced by the government in fighting and preventing terrorist attacks. Threat of attack comes not only from Somalia, but also within Kenya.
Kenyans make up a majority of al-Shabaab’s foreign fighters. Hundreds of Kenyan youth have trained with the terrorist group. This poses severe breaches in security, such as pursuing terrorist acts in towns where they might have local connections. Another aspect of the country’s instability are refugee camps with more than 423,000 Somalis.
On Saturday, April 12, Kenya gave the United Nations three months to shut down the Somali refugee camps before they are relocated by the Kenyan government. It is believed that the camps have become recruitment centers for the al-Shabaab.
“The way America changed after 9/11 is the way Kenya will change after Garissa,” Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto said, according to U.S. News.
Meanwhile, Kenyans are concerned with how the security response was dealt with during the Garissa attack. The police waited a total of seven hours before sending in a special unit to combat the gunmen. Once the special unit arrived, it only took 30 minuets for them to kill the four gunmen and stop the siege.
One survivor said security issues were mentioned last year, yet only two armed guards were provided to the school. Another said one of the gunmen appeared to know the school very well.
Since the attack, Kenyatta has implemented a curfew from dusk to dawn.
Kenyatta addressed the nation saying he instructed the police chief to accelerate the training of 10,000 recruits, because Kenya had unreasonably suffered due to the shortage of security.
The Kenyan government has offered a reward of $53,000 for the person they believe is responsible for the killing – Muhammad Kuno, originally a Kenyan schoolteacher now assumed to be in Somalia.
Information for this article was taken from washingtonpost.com, afp.com, bbc.com