Published on 3 Apr 2015 Sections ,

Garissa attack: al-Shabaab says Kenyans should leave

Al-Shabaab says Garissa and Mombasa are “our land” and that Kenyans should leave, after Channel 4 News challenged the group to explain its attack on a university.

At least 147 people were killed on Thursday and 79 wounded in Garissa in north east Kenya after al-Shabaab gunmen stormed the university, opened fire on dormitories, released Muslim students, and took Christians hostage.

Channel 4 News Africa Reporter Jamal Osman spoke to the terror group by telephone and challenged them to explain their attack on a civilian building. The group said the massacre was in response to the killing of Somalis.

However, the group also dramatically escalated its demands saying Garissa and Mombasa – Kenya’s second largest city – are part of their lands and that all Kenyans should leave the area.

‘Mastermind’

Kenyan police say the possible mastermind of the attack is former teacher Mohammed Mohamud – who has been linked to the 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi, in which 67 people were killed.

Also known by the surnames Dulyadin and Gamadhere, Mohamud 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.

Last month he was named the person who had sent 12 terrorists to plot an attack against the Kenyan parliament in Nairobi. He is also reportedly subject to asset freezes in Britain. Kenyan police have offered a $220,000 (£148,370) reward for his capture.

‘Shot on the spot’

Survivor Helen Titus, who was shot in the wrist, said one of the first things that the assailants did during the shooting-spree was to head for a lecture hall where Christians were in morning prayer.”They investigated our area. They knew everything,” the 21-year-old English literature student said.

Collins Wetangula, a survivor, was preparing to take a shower when he heard gunshots from a dormitory 150 yards away. He 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. “With each blast of the gun, I thought I was going to die.”

The gunmen then started shooting rapidly, as if exchanging fire, Mr 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.”

The soldiers took him and around 20 others to safety.

Image: A student shields her face with a book at the main entrance of Garissa campus, the site of Thursday’s militant attack.

‘Fierce shoot out’

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.

At least five heavily armed, masked gunmen opened fire outside his dormitory, turning intense almost immediately and setting off panic, he said.

As terrified students streamed out of buildings, arriving police officers took cover. Kenya’s National Police Service said a “fierce shoot-out” ensued as police guarded the dorms.

Meanwhile government sources have told AFP that the death toll could continue to rise as police assess the level of casualities inside the university campus. Kenya’s biggest-selling Daily Nation newspaper, citing sources, also said the death toll would be significantly higher.

‘Security failure’

The US condemned the attack, with White House spokesman Josh Earnest saying Washington was standing with the people of Kenya “who will not be intimidated by such cowardly attacks”.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also condemned it, reiterating his solidarity with the Kenyans “to prevent and counter terrorism and violent extremism”.

As night fell, Kenya’s National Disaster Operation Centre said that the siege at Garissa University College had ended that all students were accounted for, and have been evacuated from the building.

Interior Minister Joseph Nkaisser said that security officers had killed four suspected al-Shabaab attackers that they had cornered in a dormitory.

Meanwhile there is growing anxiety that the Kenya’s security services are failing in their quest to protect citizens.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has been under pressure to deal with insecurity caused by a string of attacks by al-Shabab.

In 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”.

Taxi driver Bernard Muchoi said: “The police themselves are unable to protect us as they are supposed to which means there is someone who is asleep on duty.”