Kenya massacre: ‘I want to know that these people are dead’


April 4, 2015

GARISSA, Kenya — Hundreds of residents of this eastern city turned out in the traffic-clogged streets Saturday to view the bodies of four men alleged to have carried out a bloody campus assault here, even as Somali militants issued a statement threatening Kenya with more attacks.

April 4, 2015

GARISSA, Kenya — Hundreds of residents of this eastern city turned out in the traffic-clogged streets Saturday to view the bodies of four men alleged to have carried out a bloody campus assault here, even as Somali militants issued a statement threatening Kenya with more attacks.

Crowds gather at a Garissa mortuary to see the bodies of the al-Shabab gunmen behind the deadly Kenya university attack, as families search for loved ones who went missing after the bloody assault.

“I want to see them,” Muna Haji said. “I want to know that these people are dead. They have killed innocent people.”

The four naked bodies were loaded haphazardly into the back of the pickup truck at the morgue where they had been held since morning. Local and international forensics teams had taken their clothes as evidence.

The truck paraded the bodies through town as residents ran alongside, clamoring for a glimpse, until it arrived at Garissa Primary School. There, it parked, and the bodies sat. Flies gathered on the bloated limbs hanging from the truck bed as the crowd swelled.

“Are those the real terrorists? During Westgate, we never found out whether the terrorists were really killed,” said Abdihakim Mowlio, an intern at Garissa Provincial General Hospital, referring to the deadly Westgate Mall attack in 2013, in which al-Shabab militants killed 67 people. “If they show the dead bodies, we believe that they’ve really been killed. We’ll feel safer because we’ve seen that the government has actually responded.”

As rescue operations continued at Garissa University College, the Islamic extremists who claimed responsibility for the assault there Thursday said that the motive was “retaliation” for Kenya’s military actions in Somalia and its treatment of Muslims, according to a statement posted on al-Shabab-affiliated Web sites and jihadists’ Twitter accounts and published by the SITE Intelligence Group. If such actions continue, they said, there would be further attacks.

“No amount of precaution or safety measures will be able to guarantee your safety, thwart another attack or prevent another bloodbath from occurring in your cities,” the statement said.

The massacre, which left 148 people dead, appeared to have been planned extensively, even targeting a site where Christians had gone to pray, survivors said Friday.

More than 500 students were rescued after the militants, heavily armed and strapped with explosives, attacked the campus, shooting some young people and taking others hostage. At least 79 people were injured, according to Kenya’s National Disaster Operation Center.

Among the survivors was Mary Irungu, who said she left her dormitory just before dawn to fetch water. Then gunshots rang out directly behind her, she said, and she knew immediately that al-Shabab had made it to Garissa.

“They were shooting at me from behind, and I froze; I was unable to think,” the college freshman said in an interview at a camp in Garissa for survivors of the massacre. Then, she said, she dropped her bucket and ran, looking over her shoulder to see two men shooting at her.

As the bullets flew, she barreled toward the school cafeteria, reaching the doors in time to slam them and turn the lock. Inside, she found seven cooks cowering in the kitchen. She could hear gunfire from inside the dormitories and the cries of her fellow students.

“It was horrific, traumatizing,” Irungu said. “I was scared for myself and for my friends who were still in the dormitories. . . . We didn’t know what was happening… and I didn’t know if the next moment would bring death.”

After almost an hour, Irungu said, she was rescued by police officers, who escorted her out through the school’s main gate, where the attackers had killed two security guards.

She was loaded into an ambulance and saw a close friend lying on the floor with blood streaming out of two bullet wounds in her legs. The friend was later airlifted to Nairobi, and Irungu has not heard from her since.

Another friend, Monicah Vundi, also a first-year student, managed to escape from one of the dorms and fled across the campus. “It was like the bullets were following me,” she said. “I knew I had to get out.” She clambered up a fence, which she estimated to be more than twice her height, shredding her palm against the looped barbed wire at the top and tumbling to the other side.

Another Garissa University College student, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fears for his safety, said the dormitory floors were littered with casualties, most of them having suffered bullet wounds. Injured students were being airlifted to Nairobi because of poor facilities at the Garissa hospital. “This is a hospital just in name,” the student said.

Reached by telephone, he said that many of his fellow students hid in closets when the Islamist gunmen attacked. He said students cowered in the closets all night and emerged Friday morning.

A spokesman for Doctors Without Borders said many of the students were suffering from shock.

Reflecting on her ordeal, Irungu said she was grateful to be alive and challenged to make something of herself. “I want to take life more seriously because most of my friends are gone from that day,” she said. “It was traumatizing. Friends you were so close to — and then they died a horrific death.”

In Eastleigh, Nairobi’s predominantly Somali suburb, people steeled themselves for what they expect to be inevitable retaliation from Kenyan security forces. Residents said attacks such as the Garissa massacre usually result in the targeting of Kenya’s entire Somali community.

Mohamed Amin, a former member of parliament in Somalia, said that this, in turn, angers Somali youths in Kenya, driving them toward al-Shabab. “Al-Shabab’s tactic is to divide the community,” he said. If the security forces do not change course and “make friends” with the Muslim community, he said, “then many more al-Shabab supporters will come out. That’s why Kenyans should change the culture of harassment. They should take Somali civilians as their own civilians, not their enemies.”

The Garissa student reached by telephone echoed those tensions, expressing resentment toward the local Muslim population — most of Garissa’s inhabitants are Somalis — in the wake of the massacre. “The [Muslim] community here is hostile,” he said. “Most of the people killed are non-Muslims. There is no connection between the community and these people who have been killed. The community is happy with what happened.”

But at the main gate of Garissa University College on Friday evening, Muslims expressed sorrow over the killings. One group of young women had walked from their homes two hours away to see for themselves what had happened.

“Why is this happening in our country?” asked a Muslim high school student from a nearby village who gave her name as Najma. “Why are the terrorists killing people?”

Somali President Hassan Sheik Mohamud on Friday called for strengthened cooperation between Kenyan and Somali security forces to combat Islamist militants, according to the BBC. He called the attack a “barbaric act.”

Courtesy: Washington Post