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Kenya reels after worst al-Shabab attack to date

April 3, 2015

Following the worst al-Shabab attack on Kenyan soil, Nairobi has vowed to remain resolute in its anti-terrorism efforts. Nearly 150 people were killed when militants launched an assault on a Kenyan university.

Kenia Garissa Universität Anschlag Soldaten Militär
Image: Getty Images/AFP/de Souza

The Kenyan government responded to al-Shabab fighters with a vow to continue its counterterrorism efforts in neighboring Somalia.

Nairobi "will not be intimidated by the terrorists who have made killing innocent people a way to humiliate the government," AFP news agency quoted Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery as telling reporters on Friday in the northeastern town of Garissa, where the al Qaeda-linked militants killed some 147 people at a university campus.

The attack occurred less than 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Kenya's southeastern border with Somalia, where the terrorist organization is based.

Kenia Garissa Universität Anschlag Mutmaßlicher Drahtzieher Mohamed Mohamud
Kenyan officials believe al-Shabab militant Mohamed Dulyaday was the mastermind behind Thursday's attackImage: Kenya Ministry of Interior

Al-Shabab has increasingly targeted Kenya, whose military first crossed into southern Somalia to help stamp out al-Shabab in 2011. It has continued to provide military support in the neighboring country in coordination with African Union (AU) forces ever since.

A bounty of over $200,000 (187,000 euros) has been posted by Kenyan authorities for the capture of al-Shabab militant Mohamed Dulyaday, who is also known as Mohammed Mohamud, Mohamed Kuno Gamadheere or Sheikh Mohamed. Officials believe he was the mastermind behind both Thursday's attack and a deadly attack on a bus near Makka, Kenya, which left at least 28 people dead.

The raid on the university in Garissa is considered the worst al-Shabab terrorist attack on Kenya to date.

In September 2013, the same militant group staged a four-day siege on Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, killing 67 people.

Somalia calls for closer security ties

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud offered his condolences to the allied neighbor on Friday, calling the attack "barbaric."

The incident showed "the need to reinforce the anti-terror cooperation between the two countries, with the aim to eliminate this menace from the region," Mohamud said.

"Kenyans have sacrificed their lives to bring peace into our country, and I am aware that the terrorists are not happy with that support. Their acts will not hamper our struggle to root out terrorism and bring peace and prosperity to this region," he added.

The United States and Germany were among the nations that offered their condolences and condemned the attacks.

Attack leaves 147 dead

On Thursday morning, four al-Shabab fighters began opening fire indiscriminately on students at the university campus in Garissa, according to authorities and eyewitnesses. According to students, they targeted non-Muslims.

"They stood in the main path from the hostels, asking questions about Islam and the Prophet. It was scary because Islam doesn't teach about killing those who don't know about the teachings," student Hassan Abdi told a local newspaper, according to news agency DPA.

Another eyewitness, Helen Titus, told the Associated Press that the terrorists had "investigated our area. They knew everything."

Kenia Garissa Universität Anschlag Soldaten
Security forces worked for roughly 16 hours to end the siege in GarissaImage: picture-alliance/epa/D. Kurokawa

The terrorists were masked and wearing explosives. The group later took refuge in a university dorm, where they were involved in a shootout with police.

The four attackers were among the 147 dead, as were at least three members of the security forces, according to Kenyan officials. Nearly 80 people were wounded during the siege.

Over 500 students were evacuated from the campus.

Authorities have put a dusk-to-dawn curfew in place in Garissa and surrounding counties until April 16.

kms/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)