‘Footsteps and Gunshots’: Witnesses Describe Kenya University Raid
ICC Note: In the aftermath of Thursday’s horrific mass killing at a university where Islamic militants Al-Shabaab specifically targeted Christians, terrifying details are emerging detailing the horrors first-hand. At the end of the day, 147 people were killed, mostly Christians, and dozens wounded. The attackers separated Christians from Muslims and summarily executed the Christian students, letting the Muslims go free.
4/3/2015 Garissa, Kenya (BBC) – Students at Kenya’s Garissa university awoke on Thursday morning to the sound of gunmen prowling the campus, shooting at their classmates. Nearly 150 people were killed in what would become the deadliest attack yet by al-Shabab militants in Kenya. Witnesses have been describing what happened.
“All I could hear were footsteps and gunshots,” student Collins Wetangula told the Associated Press news agency. “Nobody was screaming because they thought this would lead the gunmen to where they are.”
“The gunmen were saying, ‘Sisi ni al-Shabab,'” he said – Swahili for “We are al-Shabab.”
The raid began at dawn – about 0530 local time (0230 GMT). Two Toyota Probox cars drove up to the university gates, according to Kenyan daily newspaper The Star. Five gunmen got out, wearing masks and jungle-style fatigues, the paper says.
They shot dead two guards at the gate and entered the campus. A labourer named Boaz Muanja told The Star he initially mistook the gunmen for police officers – until they began firing in his direction.
A student said she too mistook the armed men for police when she went to check on an explosion at the gates. “All of a sudden I saw them throw explosives… where the Christian Union members were praying,” she said.
An unknown number of students are being held hostage after gunmen stormed Garissa University. As the jihadists—Al-Shabaab engaged in a shoot out with authorities, killed over 70 people, injured many and taken have taken hostages. The group says they are “holding many Christians alive.”
Around 5:30 a.m, the attack came as morning prayers were began at the university mosque. The worshipers were not attacked by the gunmen. The attack sent the students scattering for safety. Many of the university’s 815 students have not been accounted for.
Witnesses said they divided Christian students from Muslims, and then gunned them down without mercy. Many ran for their lives through a spray of bullets to find cover. Others escaped the dorms with the help of military soldiers at the scene. Another witness claimed, “Most of the people still inside there are girls.” Defense forces have the area surrounded..
Al-Shabaab originated as a branch of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which splintered into several smaller factions after its defeat in 2006 by Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the TFG’s Ethiopian military allies. The group describes itself as waging jihad against “enemies of Islam.” The group fights for the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic state.
Al-Shabaab is said to have many foreigners within its ranks, including recruiting those from western countries—particularly at the leadership level.
Al-Shabaab has been designated as a terrorist organization by Australia, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. As of June 2012, the US State Department has open bounties on several of the group’s senior commanders.
In 2011, Al-Shabaab claimed NGO’s were conducting illegal and inappropriate activities and banned all foreign non-governmental organizations from areas under its control. In retaliation for these alleged ulterior motives, it’s members intimidated, kidnapped and killed NGO and international workers, leading the organizations to suspend or withdraw their operations.
Their focus had primarily been within Somalia, but they have carried out deadly strikes in the region. The group took a hard hit and was weakened in the efforts to eradicate them. They now seem more focused on creating fear and chaos through terrorism on easy targets where the number of casualties may be large. In the struggle for influence and recognition, Al-Shabaab has been trying to maintain its relevancy similar to radicals such as ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Boko Haram who they have ties with. The jihadi-linked group has been blamed for multiple attacks, including the terror operation at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in 2013. In the attack they executed 67 unarmed men, women and children.
Kenyans are angry and nearly 2,500 people filled the streets in protest of al-Shabaab in Garissa, Kenya. Marchers pledged to snuff out the al-Shabaab operatives in the wake of the attack last Thursday, April 2, which killed 148 people, mostly Christians.
Pray that Kenyans will continue to remain united and speak out against al-Shabaab
Pray that security forces will be able to flush out any remaining militants who are hiding in the community of Garissa
Pray that that the attackers will be brought to justice