Kenya University Massacre

Kenya University Massacre


Five people were involved with the attack that killed 148 people. The attack was on a Kenyan University, Thursday. This is the deadliest attack in Kenya since the 1998 U.S. embassy bombing by al-Qaeda. 213 were killed in that bombing.

Al Shabaab, an Islamist group, who wore masks, carried automatic weapons and had explosives strapped to themselves. They ran into Garissa’s University college campus 200 km (120 miles) from the border of Somalia, pre-dawn, Thursday. Garissa is on the outskirts of the university campus. The town has residential areas as well as teaching areas. The gunmen were not discriminatory in their shooting actions. The university has hundreds of students from all over Kenya.

The terrorists ran onto the campus firing automatic weapons and throwing grenades. These masked men were shooting upon sleeping victims. Killing dozens, letting the Muslims go and taking Christians hostage. The attack on Garissa, Kenya went on for 16 hours. It started before dawn and went on well after dark.

The National Disaster Operations Center gave a statement announcing that 148 had been confirmed dead at that time. When the shooting started, people were sleeping, so the masked terrorists were able to easily shoot to kill. The wounded started stacking up when the men used grenades to blast the university gates. There are 79 wounded. Four of the attackers of the University in Kenya are also confirmed dead. This attack happened very close to the Somalian border.

The hour before sunset, the gunmen were in the student dormitory shooting out the windows and lobbing explosives, when Kenyan troops approached the dormitory after the gunmen, and then soldiers searched the campus for insurgents. Shabaab is linked to Al-Qaeda and they are taking credit for the pre-dawn attack on the Kenyan campus. These are the same insurgents that attacked the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, September 2013. Four gunmen slaughtered 67 people over a four-day time span.

Shabaab spokesman, Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, said the mission was to kill anyone against the Shabaab. However, the gunmen took hostages.

The spokesperson of India’s ministry of external affairs, Syed Akbaruddin, made a statement condemning the attack. He referred to the terrorist attack at the university, in North-Eastern Kenya, ‘barbaric’. India mourns with the families and sends condolences to the government and people of Kenya.

There is a bounty for a former Kenyan teacher who is believed to be in Somalia. It is possible this man, Mohamed Mohamud, alias ‘Kuno’ is the Shabaab commander who planned the Garissa attack. The bounty is $215,000 (200,000 euro). Kuno is an Ethiopian-born Kenyan national and ethnic Somali. Six percent, or 2 million of the Kenyan population are Kenyan nationals and ethnic Somalis. Some live in Kenya’s large, poverty-stricken areas along the Northeast. Garissa is one of the largest towns in that area.

The Somali region in Kenya is claimed by Shabaab as part of Somalia. This is a lawless area.

The profile for Mohamed Mohamud that has been put together so far, says that he is a gentle, quiet former teacher with the aliases ‘Kuno’, ‘Dulyadin’ and ‘Gamadhere’, which means ambidextrous and long-armed. He is in his late 50’s.  The Shabaab commander is also wanted for his connection with recent cross-border massacres and individual killings at Kenya’s Northeastern border.

Mohamud was a teacher, then headmaster in Garissa. He was radicalized and crossed into Southern Somalia where he joined the Islamic Courts Union. This is the forerunner to the Shabaab. A correspondent who met him in Mogadishu in 2008-2009, said he was widely recognized as a hardline commander. His unit, Jugta-Culus, meaning heavy strikers, was one of the most feared Islamist units. They carried out the toughest fighting with other hardline command units.

Mohamud has been in a lot of propaganda films that show Shabaab fighting in Southern Somalia. At some point he was a commander in the Somali Ras Kamboni militia under warlord Ahmed Madobe. Madobe is a former Islamist commander, now Kenyan ally.

Madobe’s militia helped Kenyan fighters take the key port of Kismayo in 2012. He leads the Jubaland region in Southern Somalia.

Kenya is putting pressure on the Shabaab on Somalian soil so in retaliation, the Shabaab is carrying out attacks and finding recruits in the discontent youth in the Muslim-majority coastal region, as well as, the Northeast region. In November Shabaab took responsibility for holding a bus hostage, outside Mandera, while they separated the passengers by religion and then killed 28 non-Muslims. Ten days later, 36 more non-Muslims were killed.

Mohamud was not one of the five attackers on Garissa, those who survived the massacre, however, said the attackers were similar to him. They spoke Swahili well and there were suggestions that some of the attackers were also Kenyan.

A dawn to dusk curfew has been imposed on various districts of Northern and Eastern Kenya. Kenya has been tormented by the Shabaab terrorist group since Kenya’s army crossed over into Somalia in 2011 and attacked Islamist bases. There has been a presence of 3,664 troops from Kenya in Southern Somalia since October 2011. There have been gun and grenade attacks blamed on Shabaab sympathizers as well.

There have been foreign travel warnings that is damaging Kenya’s tourism industry, which is economically important to Kenya. Wednesday, hours before the attack, President Uhuru Kanyatta announced that Kenya was as safe as any other country. Thursday, he offered his condolences. Then the president ordered, an urgent enrollment of 10,000 police recruits. He believed that Kenya’s suffering was in part, due to a shortage in police officers.

Saturday, Somalian security ordered Shablelle Radio to get off the air waves. The radio station reported the claim of al-Shabaab, that it was responsible for the attack on the university in Kenya that took nearly 150 lives. The shutdown is due to an agreement that was breached between independent media and the security ministry. The agreement states, that independent media will not air Al-Shabaab propaganda, according to spokesman, Mohamed Yusuf, for Somalia’s security ministry. Mohamed Bashir Hashi, an editor for Shabelle said that along with the order of the radio station’s shut down, the station’s staff were also arrested. Hashi said the radio station tries to provide unbiased, balanced information, but the government wants us to be their voice. This is a government attack against independent media.

A man arrested under suspicion of being part of Shabaab’s attack is Tanzanian. He was found in the ceiling with grenades. A university security guard was also arrested as a suspected sympathizer who is also a Kenyan ethnic Somali.

Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, addressed the Kenya University massacre on national television. He said those that planned and financed the attacks, including the one in Garissa, will not be forgotten, and harsh measures will be taken against these Islamic militants. He said his administration is going to respond in the most serious way possible.

Friday, a Shabaab statement was given to Kenya. They promised more bloodshed. The university massacre was in retaliation of Kenyan’s persecution of Muslims in Kenya. Shabaab reminded Kenya of the 1984 Wagalla massacre. Kenyan troops, in attempt to put down a local conflict, killed an undetermined number of people.

Kenya believes it needs more than a military campaign against Somalia, but an appropriate political approach as well. Thinking that a Tanzanian could be involved would pull in comparisons in the July 2010 suicide bombings in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. 80 people were killed. Shabaab said that attack was pay back for the part Uganda played in the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia. 13 people are awaiting trial for those attacks; five Ugandans, one Tanzanian and seven Kenyans.

President Kenyatta has promised to fight terrorism. He told al-Shabaab that the rest of the accomplices in the Garissa attack would be found and will all be brought to justice. He also announced the mastermind was known and a reward had been put up for his capture. Then he said there would be three days of mourning for the Garissa attack.

Five people were arrested under suspicion of their involvement in the Kenya University massacre. Three more people have been arrested when they attempted to cross into Somalia. Two more suspects have been arrested at Garissa University.

By Jeanette Smith


Hindustan Times

Mail & Guardian Africa

The Hindu

Photo courtesy of Alliance to End World Hunger – Flickr License