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Kenya Campus Attack Kills 70; Hostages Held as Bounty Offered

Thursday, 02 Apr 2015 12:53 PM

(Bloomberg) -- At least 70 people were killed and hostages have been taken in an attack on a university campus in eastern Kenya claimed by al-Qaeda-linked gunmen, as the government offered a bounty for the suspected mastermind.

At least 79 people were injured in the Thursday assault on Garissa University, Kenya’s National Disaster Operation said in posts on its Twitter account. Nine were critically wounded and airlifted to Nairobi for treatment. Garissa town is 145 kilometers (90 miles) from the border with Somalia, home of the al-Shabaab militant group. More than 500 students were rescued. The attackers have taken an unknown number of hostages, said President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Kenya has offered a $220,000 reward for Mohammed Mohamud Kuno, a suspected member of al-Shabaab on a government watch list who authorities believe helped organize the attack, Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka said by phone. Kenya’s police chief, Joseph Boinnet, imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on Garissa, Mandera and Tana River counties from 6:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. from Friday until April 16, he said on Citizen Television.

A student who fled, Njeri Maina, said three assailants entered the university’s main dormitory carrying assault rifles and grenades. They shouted in Arabic, then Swahili, telling everybody to lie down before they opened fire, she said by phone. Maina said she escaped through a back entrance after security forces started engaging the militants.

Rising Attacks

Attacks in Kenya soared after the government in 2011 sent troops into Somalia to fight al-Shabaab following a wave of kidnappings and the murder of a British tourist in at remote coastal resort that the government blamed on the group.

One suspected gunman was arrested while trying to flee the scene on Thursday, according to the Interior Ministry.

Al-Shabaab spokesman Abdul Aziz Abu Musab said his group was responsible for the attack. Speaking to Radio Andalus, a Somalia-based broadcaster that backs the insurgents, he said the militants stormed the university compound, took control and killed “many Christian enemies.”

Some students were being held captive in the university’s student accommodation while security forces and Kenyan troops exchanged gunfire with the assailants, Kinyua said earlier. Kenya’s Interior Ministry said that police were flushing out the gunmen and had secured three of four hostels they entered.

Westgate Raid

Al-Shabaab has waged an insurgency in Somalia since 2006 in a bid to impose Islamic law. In September 2013, the Islamist militia claimed responsibility for an attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi that left 67 people dead and the country has faced bombings of bars, churches, and markets.

The British government on March 27 raised its travel warning for Kenya, asking its nationals to avoid non-essential trips to a wider area of the coast than its previous advisory, including the Mombasa airport. The same day the Australian government warned that terrorists may be planning attacks in crowded locations in Nairobi “in the near future.”

The militants may have chosen the university as a “soft target, an area with a big population,” Emmanuel Kisiangani, a Nairobi-based senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, said by phone.

“Al-Shabaab usually come up with attacks when they are perceived to be at their weakest point. I think they did this as part of the agenda to assert themselves,” he said.

--With assistance from Mohamed Sheikh Nor in Mogadishu.

To contact the reporters on this story: Abjata Khalif in Garissa at akhalif@bloomberg.net; David Malingha Doya in Nairobi at dmalingha@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net Chris Kay, Ana Monteiro

© Copyright 2017 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

   
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