Al Shabaab, the Somali based Islamist terror group, attacked Garissa Universtiy in north east Kenya on 2 April.
Local reports indicate that the militants launched the attack at 5.30 am by throwing explosives at the university's main gate before storming the facility, firing indiscriminately and gaining access to the student hostels. According to several reports, the assailants separated the students based on their religion and allegedly released Muslim students, while killing several non-Muslims on the spot and taking others as hostages. Reuters news agency quoted a spokesman for the terrorist group as stating: "There are many dead bodies of Christians inside the building. We are also holding many Christians alive." While all staff members are reportedly accounted for, the national disaster operation centre has announced that 500 of the 815 students have been accounted for. The inspector general has issued a 6:30 pm to 6:30 am curfew of several areas including Garissa.
Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said: “We extend our deepest condolences to the families of those killed and injured in this attack, and we pray for the safe return for the students who are still unaccounted for. CSW deplores this cowardly attack on civilians. The separation of hostages according to their faith echoes previous Al Shabaab attacks and highlights the group's deadly and divisive sectarian motivations. This is particularly poignant coming on the eve of the Christian celebration of Easter. We welcome the statement by President Kenyatta assuring the nation of the deployment of the necessary security apparatus and call upon the international community to support the Kenyan government as it responds to the ongoing situation and formulates policies to address this henious threat.”
Al Shabaab attacks in Kenya have increased since October 2011, when Kenya’s army joined international efforts to stabilise Somalia following the cross-border abductions of foreign tourists by the group. It formally aligned itself with al Qaeda in 2012, although reports of foreign fighters amongst its ranks predated this announcement. There have been three attacks in the last two years in which the group has separated hostages according to religious identity and murdered them accordingly; the siege at Westgate Shopping Mall in September 2013, the hijacking of a bus travelling from Mandera to Nairobi in November 2014, and the attack on a quarry in Mandera in December 2014.
The attack on Garissa University comes as the terror alert in East Africa was raised by the US, UK and Australian governments. On 27 March, Makka Al Mukarama hotel in Mogadishu, killing the Somali Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Yusuf Mohamed Ismail Bari-Bari and nine others. On 31 March, the group was implicated in the assassination in Uganda of Joan Kagezi, the chief prosecutor in the case against 13 men accused of the 2010 suicide bombing in Kampala.