Shock, defiance in Kenya after Shebab massacre 147 at university
NAIROBI, Kenya - Associated Press
Kenyan policemen guard the entrance to the general hospital where survivors and the injured are after Thursday's attack by gunmen at a university campus, in Garissa April 3, 2015. REUTERS PhotoThe bodies of dozens of students massacred by Somalia's Shebab Islamists at a Kenyan university arrived in the capital Friday, as grieving relatives faced a desperate wait to receive the remains of their loved ones.
The day-long siege of Garissa University in which 147 people, mostly students, were killed was Kenya's deadliest attack since the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, and the bloodiest ever by the Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants.
The Kenyan government, however, vowed that it would not be "intimidated".
Survivors recounted how the masked gunmen taunted students before killing them, including forcing them to phone their parents to urge them to call for Kenyan troops to leave Somalia -- before shooting them anyway.
As the gunmen prowled university rooms hunting down more people to kill, some students smeared blood from their dead friends over their bodies to pretend they too 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.
Others appeared to have been killed by knives.
The day-long seige ended with four gunmen being killed in a hail of heavy gunfire, and one suspect reportedly arrested. At least 79 people were also wounded in the attack on the campus, which lies near the border with Somalia.
On Friday, a huge crowd of shocked and traumatised survivors and relatives of those killed or missing gathered at the university gate.
"I 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.
"I tried to identify his body among those killed... I have to do that before the body goes bad in the heat."
Emergency workers set about collecting the bodies, while Kenyan soldiers patrolled the campus.
Visiting the scene of the carnage, Kenya's Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery vowed his country would not give in to the Shebab, who despite losing territory inside Somalia have stepped up operations in Kenya.
"Kenya's government will not be intimidated by the terrorists who have made killing innocent people a way to humiliate the government," he told reporters, promising that the government would "fight back".
"We shall win this war against our enemies."
Hurling grenades and firing automatic rifles, the gunmen stormed the university at dawn as students were sleeping, shooting dead dozens before setting Muslims free and holding Christians and others hostage.
Just before darkness fell, Kenyan troops move in on the dormitory where the gunmen were holed up, apparently determined to prevent a drawn-out siege like that seen in the Westgate shopping mall in September 2013.
Maureen Manyengo, a 21-year-old education student from western Kenya, said 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 recalled, saying the attackers spoke in Kenya's Swahili language, not Somali.
"I could also hear them, saying 'You will only be safe the day your president removes the soldiers from Somalia'."
Several buses were transporting the traumatised students from the university -- now ordered to close permanently -- back to their home areas, as the bodies of those killed were being flown back to the capital Nairobi.
Scores of weeping family members gathered Friday at the main Nairobi mortuary to identify their relatives, where a line of the dead students were laid out.
The university siege marks the worst attack on Kenyan soil since the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi by Al-Qaeda, when 213 people were killed by a huge truck bomb.
The Shebab also carried out the Westgate shopping mall massacre in Nairobi in September 2013 when four gunmen killed 67 people in a four-day siege.
Shehab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage said the killings were in revenge for the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia as part of the African Union's force supporting the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu.
"Kenya is at war with Somalia," Rage said.
A $215,000 (200,000 euro) bounty was offered for the capture of alleged Shebab commander Mohamed Mohamud, a former Kenyan teacher believed to now be in Somalia and said to be the mastermind behind the Garissa attack.
Newspapers on Friday were critical that intelligence warnings had been missed.
"The attack was preceded by a number of intelligence alarm bells," The Star newspaper said.
But newspapers also called for national unity in the wake of the killings.
"Even as we struggle to rise from the rubble of yesterday's attack, we must once again realise what the enemy wants to trigger," The Standard's editorial read. "They want an internal war in Kenya."