Heinous terrorist attack on Kenya's university kills 147, injures 79
BEIJING, April 3 (Xinhua) -- A day-long siege of a Kenyan university campus by gunmen on Thursday killed 147 and injured 79, Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery said.
A total of 587 students were evacuated from Garissa University College in the eastern town of Garissa under the help of government troops and some students had managed to escape unaided.
The National Disaster Operations Center said all staff of the university have been accounted for, and are helping with the tracking of students.
It is the country's deadliest attack since the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings.
The Kenyan government announced Thursday night that four gunmen who stormed the campus were killed during an exchange of gunfire with government soldiers and the 16-hour operation at the campus in Garissa bordering Somalia was over.
The attack was claimed by al-Qaida-linked Al-Shabaab fighters. Four gunmen from the same group carried out the Westgate shopping mall massacre in Nairobi in September 2013, killing at least 67 people in a four-day siege.
Militants from the Somalia-based terrorist group stormed Moi University campus before dawn Thursday, shooting students and taking hostages in the heinous terrorist attack targeting Christians. The terrorist group said they released 15 Muslims.
Survivors will be transported to Nairobi for medical treatment on Friday using National Youth Service (NYS) vehicles, Nkaissery said, adding that the militants were armed with IEDs, live bombs and grenades.
Currently, the hospitals are in urgent need of blood to help the wounded who had escaped with gunshot wounds in the gunfire.
MANHUNT FOR MASTERMIND
Kenyan police on Thursday circulated a photo of a senior Al-Shabaab leader, whom they believe was behind the university attack
The police placed a 217,400-U.S.-dollar bounty on the head of Mohamed Kuno, Al-Shabaab's military commander in Lower Juba region in southern Somalia, who is currently in charge of external operations against Kenya.
Kuno, formerly known as Sheikh Mahamad when he worked for Al-Haramain Foundation between 1993 and 1995 before the institution was closed, is believed to be very religious and has been a Madrassa teacher for several years.
The suspect later became a teacher and principal at Madarasa Najah in Garissa from 1997 to 2000, where his extremist tendencies became more manifest. He thereafter joined Al-Shabaab after being motivated by the ideology of Islamic Courts Union (ICU) to establish an Islamic statehood in Somalia.
It is reported that the majority of the terror attacks in Garissa were carried out by former students of Madarasa Najah. Most of the recruits were drawn from close family members and clan mates.
Police said Kuno used the ideals of caliphate governance to persuade and recruit his students to join the ICU and later to join Al-Shabaab.
The militant group had established a Jabha Unit in every region of Somalia, and Kuno was charged with carrying out attacks against foreign troops.
He also has an extensive terrorist network within Kenya, particularly at the Dadaab refugee camp. Kuno claimed responsibility for last year's bus attack in Mandera, which borders Somalia and Ethiopia, killing 28 people.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said security had been stepped up along the border with Somalia and appealed to Kenyans to be extra vigilant and take security measures seriously.
The East African nation has warned that attacks threatened by Al-Shabaab could affect the country's risk profile, limiting the number of new investments being made especially by foreign investors.
The police have stepped up security around vital installations likely to be targets of attacks by Al-Shabaab militants, who have vowed to bring down Kenya's skyscrapers to retaliate its cross-border incursions into southern Somalia.
There has been heightened security around the country, particularly along the border with security agencies being at an unprecedented state of alert amid the latest reports that Al-Shabaab has planned attacks against Kenya.
The heinous brutal attack on the university has been widely condemned by the international community.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon on Thursday condemned the terrorist attack and reiterated his solidarity with the Kenyan people and government.
"He (The secretary-general) conveys his deeply-felt condolences to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to the wounded," said deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq said at a daily news briefing here.
India on Thursday strongly condemned the "barbaric terrorist attack" in a statement, with its external affairs ministry saying that India stood in solidarity and sympathy with the bereaved families and the injured, and conveyed "our heart-felt condolences to the government and people of Kenya."
"This outrageous terrorist act is yet another reminder that the menace of terrorism continues to threaten us all and the international community needs to further strengthen its fight against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations," the statement said.
In separate statements, foreign envoys from United States, Britain and Germany vowed to work with the Kenyan government to end the scourge of terrorism that has claimed many lives and maimed thousands in the East African nation.
U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec said the attack once again reinforced the need for all countries and communities to unite in an effort to combat violent extremism.
"The United States remains a committed friend of Kenya. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the government and people of Kenya in the effort to end the scourge of terrorism," Godec said in his condolence message.
"We extend our deep condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed in this heinous attack, which reportedly included the targeting of Christian students," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement.
In his statement, German Deputy-Ambassador to Kenya Friedo Sielemann encouraged all parties in Kenya to cooperate closely to face the challenges raised by terrorism.
"Germany sharply condemns the heinous terrorist attack on Garissa University, a place of learning and personal development. We share the pain of the families and friends who lost loved ones," Sielemann said in his condolence message. "We stand by Kenya in solidarity in the fight against terrorism in East Africa.".
In his statement, British High Commissioner to Kenya Christian Turner, whose country had warned of imminent terror attacks in the coastal region, Nairobi and Garissa, termed the attack as "cowardly".
"Kenyan resolve and unity is stronger than terrorists' hatred," he said via Twitter on Thursday while condoling with victims and families.
Turner's remarks on the attack came barely a week after the British government expanded its travel warnings to Kenya.