Peter Kinuthia’s battered Nokia beeped early Thursday: “Alshabab R killing us goodbye if we won’t make it I loved you all,” read the panicked message from his daughter, Salome.

The young student was trapped at Garissa University College, where at least 148 people died Thursday in an attack by the Somali Islamist militant group Shabab, whose gunmen targeted Christians on the multidenominational campus.

The devastated 70-year-old farmer called Salome back immediately. She sent another message, saying she couldn’t speak. When he called again half an hour later, the phone was off.

On Saturday morning, the anguished father was referring to his daughter in the past tense.

Kinuthia and his family searched a list of survivors Saturday, but they did not find her name. Then they went on to a morgue, and then another, until they looked at a body so badly smashed by bullets that they couldn’t be sure it was her.

Easter in Kenya
Kenyan Christians sing during an Easter morning service at Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi. Prayers were said for victims of last week’s attack in Garissa.
Relatives line up to check the list of survivors at Chiromo funeral home, Nairobi, Kenya.

“We had fear about her studying there,” he said about the town near the border with Somalia that has seen drive-by shootings and grenade attacks by the Shabab and similar extremist groups. “We discussed it,” he said. “But we thought she could start there for a year and transfer to another campus.”

Behind the morgue at the Chiromo funeral parlor in Nairobi, the keening of grieving mothers tore into an otherwise silent afternoon.

“Why? Why? Why? What happened?” wailed one woman, whose child had just been confirmed dead. She threw herself repeatedly onto the concrete floor as Kenyan Red Cross workers sought to provide support.

Another grieving woman crawled in circles and rolled on a lawn, shaking her head, her face filled with tears as she screamed out her pain. Another woman writhed, ripping out handfuls of lawn.

Grim-looking men with handkerchiefs stood by and wiped away tears.
lRelated Kenyan leaders evacuate university, order curfew after Shabab massacre

The campus attack deeply shocked a nation that last year saw more than 150 people killed in terrorist attacks, the highest year’s toll since Kenya invaded Somalia to fight the Shabab in 2011. The killings Thursday resulted in the highest death toll in Kenya since the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy.

Stories of pitiless carnage have emerged, with accounts of gunmen bursting into a morning Christian prayer meeting where about 30 people had gathered and opening fire. Many of the students killed were female. There were accounts of desperate students smearing themselves with the blood of the dead, pretending to have been killed in attempts to fool the gunmen.

The Shabab issued new threats Saturday, warning that Kenyan cities would “run red with blood” in terrorist attacks, the SITE Intelligence Group reported.

“No amount of precaution or safety measures will be able to guarantee your safety, thwart another attack or prevent another bloodbath,” the statement read.
Kenyan judge suspends portion of controversial new security law
Kenyan judge suspends portion of controversial new security law

Though the Shabab has lost territory and seen commanders defect or be killed in U.S. drone strikes, its trademark tactic — sending a small number of suicidal militants against a civilian target — remains devastatingly effective.

Five gunmen reportedly carried out the attack. Four were killed, their bodies displayed by authorities Saturday in Garissa in the back of a white pickup truck, driven slowly through a crowded, open area, according to local news reports. Authorities said a fifth man was arrested trying to flee.

After the evacuation and indefinite closure of the school, students were transported by bus Saturday to a Nairobi stadium, where they were reunited with relatives on a rainy night.


Posted on April 5, 2015, in Categorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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