At least 15 killed in Kenya uni­ver­sity attack

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY TOM ODULA AND ROD­NEY MUHUMUZA

Al-Shabab gun­men at­tacked a col­lege in north­east Kenya early Thurs­day, tar­get­ing Chris­tians and killing at least 15 peo­ple and wound­ing 60 oth­ers, wit­nesses said. The pres­i­dent said it is now a hostage sit­u­a­tion.

Even as se­cu­rity forces cor­nered the gun­men in a dor­mi­tory at Garissa Uni­ver­sity Col­lege where they could be hold­ing hostages, sur­vivors de­scribed to The As­so­ci­ated Press a har­row­ing scene, where peo­ple were mer­ci­lessly gunned down and bul­lets whis­tled through the air as they ran for their lives.

Collins We­tan­gula, the vice chair­man of the stu­dent union, said he was pre­par­ing to take a shower when he heard gun­shots com­ing from Tana dor­mi­tory, which hosts both men and women, 150 me­ters away. The cam­pus has six dorms and at least 887 stu­dents, he said.

He said that when he heard the gun­shots he locked him­self and three room­mates in their room.

“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. “The gun­men were say­ing ‘sisi ni al-Shabab’ (Swahili for ‘we are alShabab’),” We­tan­gula said.

When the gun­men ar­rived at his dor­mi­tory he could hear them open­ing doors and ask­ing if the peo­ple who had hid­den in­side whether they 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 started to shoot rapidly and it was as if there was an ex­change of fire, he 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,” We­tan­gula said. The sol­diers took him and around 20 oth­ers to safety.

A spokesman for al-Shabab says it is re­spon­si­ble for the on­go­ing attack. Ali Mo­hamud Rage said in a ra­dio broad­cast that fighters from the group are con­duct­ing a “heavy” mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion in­side the cam­pus.

Kenya’s se­cu­rity forces are try­ing to dis­lodge the gun­men from at least one dorm.

Kenyan Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta said hostages have been taken.

“I am sad­dened to in­form the na­tion that early to­day, ter­ror­ists at­tacked Garissa Uni­ver­sity Col­lege killed and wounded sev­eral peo­ple and have taken oth­ers hostage,” he said in a speech to the na­tion.

He said de­tails would be forth­com­ing “in due course” from se­cu­rity of­fi­cials.

Michael Bwana, a 20-year-old stu­dent who fled the attack, said he and other sur­vivors have been try­ing to call their trapped friends but their phones are switched off. Ei­ther the stu­dents turned off their phones for their own safety or the gun­men have seized the hand­sets, he said.

“Most of the peo­ple still in­side there are girls,” Bwana said, re­fer­ring to the stu­dent dor­mi­tory in which gun­men are be­lieved to be hold­ing an un­known num­ber of stu­dents.

One sus­pected ex­trem­ist was ar­rested as he at­tempted to flee the scene, In­te­rior Min­is­ter Joseph Nkaissery told a press con­fer­ence in Nairobi.

Au­gus­tine Alanga, a 21-yearold stu­dent, de­scribed a pan­icked scene as gun­shots rang out out­side their dor­mi­tory in the predawn hours when most peo­ple were asleep.

The shoot­ing be­came more in­tense al­most im­me­di­ately, he told AP by phone. The heavy gun­fire forced some stu­dents to stay in­doors as oth­ers fled with gun­men fir­ing at them.

He said he saw at least five heav­ily armed, masked gun­men.

“I am just now re­cov­er­ing from the pain as I in­jured my­self while try­ing to es­cape. I was run­ning bare­foot,” said Alanga, who was one of scores of stu­dents who man­aged to es­cape through barbwire fenc­ing.

At the time the attack started — 5:30 a.m. — morn­ing prayers were un­der­way at the uni­ver­sity mosque, where stu­dents were not at­tacked, he said.

A mor­tu­ary at­ten­dant in the town of Garissa says at least 15 peo­ple have been killed and at some 60 were in­jured. The at­ten­dant saw the ca­su­al­ties ar­rive by am­bu­lance. He spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to speak to the press.

Some of the more se­ri­ously wounded were be­ing flown to Nairobi, the cap­i­tal, au­thor­i­ties said.

Lo­cal res­i­dents do­nated blood out­side Garissa hos­pi­tal in the shade of a tree.

The Na­tional Dis­as­ter Op­er­a­tions Cen­ter said on Twit­ter that three of four dorms have been evac­u­ated, with the gun­men cor­nered in one dorm. No fur­ther de­tails were im­me­di­ately avail­able and Kenya De­fense Forces have sur­rounded the area, jour­nal­ists said, im­ped­ing their ac­cess.

Ter­ri­fied stu­dents streamed out of build­ings, some young men shirt­less, as ar­riv­ing po­lice of­fi­cers hun­kered down, tak­ing cover. The gun­men had opened fire at guards upon ar­riv­ing, trig­ger­ing a “fierce shootout” with po­lice guard­ing stu­dent dorms, Kenya’s Na­tional Po­lice Ser­vice said in a writ­ten state­ment.

We­tan­gula was among about 20 stu­dents who had been res­cued by sol­diers. One sol­dier in­structed them to run at their com­mand and dive when they told them to when they got out­side, he said. “We started run­ning and bul­lets were whizzing past our heads and the sol­diers told us to dive,” We­tan­gula said. He said the sol­dier told the stu­dents later that alShabab snipers were perched on a three story dor­mi­tory called the El­gon and were try­ing to shoot them.

Po­lice and mil­i­tary sur­rounded the build­ings and were try­ing to se­cure the area, po­lice of­fi­cer Musa Yego told AP.

AP

(Above) Stu­dents of the Garissa Uni­ver­sity Col­lege take shel­ter in a ve­hi­cle af­ter flee­ing from an attack by gun­men in Garissa, Kenya on Thurs­day, April 2.

(Right) Kenyan po­lice of­fi­cers take cover out­side the Garissa Uni­ver­sity Col­lege dur­ing an attack by gun­men on Thurs­day.

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