Africa

Kenya mourns victims of Garissa al-Shabab attack

  • 5 April 2015
  • From the section Africa
Media captionThe BBC's Maud Jullien in Nairobi: "Kenyans say it is the time to come together and grieve"

Kenya is holding three days of mourning for the 148 victims of an attack on students by militant group al-Shabab.

Easter ceremonies are being held to remember those who died on Thursday at Garissa University.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has vowed to respond to the attack "in the severest way possible".

One of the four gunmen who carried out the attack has been identified as the son of a government official, the interior ministry has said.

He was named as Abdirahim Abdullahi, whose father is a local chief in Mandera County in the north-east of the country.

"The father had reported to security agents that his son had disappeared from home... and was helping the police try to trace his son by the time the Garissa terror attack happened," ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka said.

Abdullahi studied law in Nairobi and was an "upcoming lawyer", Mr Njoka added.


At the scene: BBC's Emmanuel Igunza in Nairobi

I met Tabitha Mutuku at the Chiromo mortuary in the capital, where bodies of the victims have been taken for identification. She has been desperately looking for information about her son, a student at the university, and had been to all the hospitals.

At the mortuary she told me that she had to go through 20 pictures as she tried to identify the body of her son. She didn't find him. In tears, while being held by another relative, she told me how frustrated she was by the slow pace of identifying bodies.

But there was joy for some families who were reunited with students brought from Garissa. They arrived at night at a packed city stadium. Parents hugged and kissed their children, some overwhelmed by emotion.

Many more, however, still wait for news. The country is in shock and mourning but there is also tension. Security has been increased not only in Garissa but in major cities, where there are intensified checks of those going into churches and shopping centres.

Andrew Harding: Kenya's stoic survivors


The four gunmen were killed during the siege, and officials said they were holding five people for questioning.

The Kenyan Red Cross says that so far 54 of the victims have been identified by relatives at a morgue in the capital, Nairobi.

Buses are transporting more than 600 students and about 50 staff who survived the attacks to their hometowns.

Almost all of the 148 killed were students and another 79 people were injured.

United in grief

Both Christians and Muslims have denounced the attack. On Sunday, Sunni Islam's most respected seat of learning, Cairo's al-Azhar University, said it condemned the "terrorist attack".

Image copyright AP
Image caption Services took place on Sunday morning to honour the victims of the the attack
Image copyright AP
Image caption Prayers were offered for the dead and their families

Pope Francis used his traditional Easter Sunday message to pray for the victims.

In Kenya, people took the streets to protest against the killings and reject the idea that al-Shabab had succeeded in dividing the country,

"What I can say is that here in Eastleigh [a Somali and Muslim Nairobi suburb] both Christians and Muslims are doing business together. There is harmony... There is no religion that says people should kill one another," one man told the BBC.

'Defend our way of life'

On Saturday, President Kenyatta said that al-Shabab posed an "existential threat" to Kenya.

He vowed to "fight terrorism to the end" and said the militants would not succeed in their aim of creating an Islamic caliphate in Kenya.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Families were reunited with survivors of the massacre
Image copyright AP
Image caption Meanwhile in Garissa, people saw the bodies of the dead gunmen on display

There has been criticism in Garissa, which is 150km (100 miles) from the Somali border, at how the security services dealt with the attack.

Only two guards were on duty at the time of the assault, despite official warnings that an attack on an institution of higher learning was likely.

Al-Shabab, which is based in neighbouring Somalia, has pledged a "long, gruesome war" against Kenya.

The group said its attacks were in retaliation for acts by Kenya's security forces, who are part of the African Union's mission in Somalia against al-Shabab.

Media captionUhuru Kenyatta: "We will do everything to defend our way of life"

Garissa university campus

1. Militants enter the university grounds, two guards are shot dead

2. Shooting begins within the campus

3. Students attacked in their classrooms while preparing for exams

4. Gunmen believed isolated in the female dormitories

5. Some students make an escape through the fence

Attack as it happened

Who are the victims?

Survivors 'were too scared to scream'

Why is al-Shabab targeting Kenya?


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