Kenya holds five over mass killing at Garissa University
Militants issue fresh threats over ‘occupation’ of southern Somalia
Kenya said Saturday it had arrested five men in connection with the university massacre by Somalia’s al-Qaida-linked Shabab militants that left nearly 150 people dead.
The arrests came as militants warned of “another bloodbath” and a “long, gruesome war” unless Kenya withdrew its troops from Somalia.
Forensic police officers continued to scour the site where one student shocked security forces by emerging unharmed from a wardrobe where she had hidden for over two days.
A Kenya Red Cross spokeswoman said that the 19-year old was traumatized and dehydrated but physically unharmed and undergoing assessment by doctors.
Interior ministry spokesman, Mwenda Njoka, said five arrests had already been made.
“Three were the coordinators who were arrested while trying to flee to Somalia, two were arrested within the precincts of Garissa University,” he told AFP, noting that the four gunmen in the university were killed on Thursday.
The name of the three suspected organizers were not given, but Njoka said the two arrested on campus included a security guard at the university, and a Tanzanian named as Rashid Charles Mberesero.
Mberesero was reportedly arrested on the campus on Friday, found hiding as people carried out the grim work of clearing piles of bodies.
“He was hiding in the ceiling of the university and had grenades,” Njoka said, while the guard, a Kenyan of ethnic Somali origin, was named as Osman Ali Dagane.
He is suspected of helping the gunmen, and was found “in possession of jihadist materials,” Njoka added.
A US$215,000 (200,000-euro) bounty has also been offered for alleged Shabab commander Mohamed Mohamud, a former Kenyan teacher believed to now be in Somalia and said to be the mastermind behind the Garissa attack.
Hurling grenades and firing automatic rifles, the gunmen stormed the university at dawn on Thursday as students were sleeping, shooting dead dozens before setting Muslims free and holding Christians and others hostage.
Just before darkness fell, Kenyan troops moved 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 Nairobi in September 2013, also carried out by Shabab fighters.
The militants vowed more attacks against Kenya, which invaded southern Somalia in 2011 and is now fighting alongside the African Union force battling the Shabab.
“We will ... stop at nothing to avenge the deaths of our Muslim brothers until your government ceases its oppression and until all Muslim lands are liberated from Kenyan occupation,” the Shabab said in a statement released Saturday.
“Until then, Kenyan cities will run red with blood ... this will be a long, gruesome war of which you, the Kenyan public, are its first casualties.”
On Friday, United States embassy vehicles were seen entering the campus — in past attacks including the Westgate massacre, FBI investigators helped Kenyan police with forensic examinations.
“Forensics and investigations are still going on,” Njoka said.
The Shabab on Friday described how they had specifically singled out non-Muslims to kill, gathering them together before executing them.
Survivors who hid from the attack have recounted how the gunmen called on people to come out of their dormitory bedrooms and lie on the ground face down, but then killed them.
A photograph seen by AFP from inside the building showed over 50 students squeezed together lying down on the ground, all them apparently executed where they lay.
Survivors also recounted how the gunmen taunted students before killing them.
“The mujahedeen stormed the university compound and swiftly proceeded to the halls of residence where they had gathered all the occupants,” the Shabab statement said.
“And since the attack targeted only non-Muslims, all Muslims were allowed to safely evacuate the premises before executing the disbelievers.”
Emergency workers completed the task of collecting bodies on Friday, with the final toll declared as 148, with all the corpses flown to the capital Nairobi, where grieving families wait to receive the remains of their loved ones.
For the traumatized survivors still in Garissa, students on Saturday waited outside the university compound to collect their belongings before being taken to the capital Nairobi. The college has been ordered to be closed indefinitely.
There has been growing criticism in the media that critical intelligence warnings were missed.
Kenya’s National Union of Teachers have called for extra security measures, warning advising “all teachers in northen Kenya to leave if they feel unsafe.”