Kenyan authorities criticised for failing to protect students

Most of the 147 murdered on campus were women who were mainly in their early 20s

Dozens of anxious parents gathered at a mortuary in Nairobi on Friday morning to await word on the fate of their children who were caught up in a rampage by Somali-based al-Shabaab militants that left 147 dead.

Only 20 bodies had been delivered to the Chiromo mortuary by midday, and Red Cross personnel were struggling to counsel relatives of the victims following the dawn Thursday attack on a university campus.

Security sources said the vast majority of the victims were girls and women, mainly in their early 20s. The BBC quoted security forces saying up to 20 police officers and soldiers were also killed.


As Kenyans struggled to digest news of the scale of the atrocity in the impoverished northeast of the country, analysts criticised the authorities for their failure to do more to protect the students. Garissa, the scene of the attack, is the main population centre in a sprawling, lightly policed territory near the border with Somalia. British and Australian governments had issued travel notices warning their citizens against travel to the town only a week before the attack.


Rashid Abdi, an independent Horn of Africa analyst, said the security forces should have done more to secure the students. “It has been obvious for some time that al-Shabaab has been going for soft targets, and this university was an obvious possible target,” he said. “Al-Shabaab has consistently attacked non-Muslims who are not of Somali ethnicity in the region, and it really is criminal that there were only two guards at the hostels.

“The intelligence failures this reveals are utterly inexcusable.”

More details continued to emerge of the casual brutality of the militants. They stormed the hostels at 5.30am, separated the Christians from the Muslims and allowed the latter to leave before massacring dozens of students using grenades and machine guns.

Fred Musinai, who lost his 21-year-old daughter in the attack, told the Star newspaper that she had called at 7am frantically requesting that he ask her mother to pray hard because the killers were closing in.

The paper reported that a few minutes later, Mr Musinai received a call from one of the attackers, who said he had just shot his daughter.

Al-Qaeda affiliate

Kenya, long seen as an island of peace in a turbulent region, has been rocked by a number of al-Shabaab attacks since 2011, when the country’s troops joined a UN-backed security force seeking to tackle the al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia.

African Union troops have pushed the Islamist extremists from almost all major populated centres in the country, but the rebels have hit back with a series of terror attacks in Somalia, Kenya and Uganda, another country contributing troops.

Before Thursday’s attack, al-Shabaab’s highest-profile atrocity had been the four-day siege of Nairobi’s Westgate mall in September 2013 that left 67 dead.

The north of Kenya has been the scene of a string of attacks, including the massacre of dozens of bus passengers in November. – (Guardian service)