Kenyan authorities began the grim task Friday of identifying the dead from an attack by Shabab Muslim extremists that killed at least 147, mainly Christian students, at a university in Garissa near the border with Somalia.
Police imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in Garissa, Mandera and Tana River counties for the next two weeks to deter recurrence of the stealth assault by the Somalia-based militants, the Mail and Guardian of Africa reported from the massacre scene.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered 10,000 police recruits to deploy to university campuses to bolster security, acknowledging that the nation had “suffered unnecessarily due to shortage of security personnel.”
Some Kenyans have reacted angrily to the Thursday massacre, accusing authorities of inaction in spite of warnings last week from intelligence sources that the Shabab extremists were plotting an attack on a multidenominational university, the Associated Press reported.
Emergency response workers were still collecting bodies from the campus a day after the 15-hour siege that left another 79 wounded and overwhelmed the local hospital’s treatment facilities, the Mail and Guardian said.
Bodies of the victims were being moved to a large mortuary in Nairobi where next of kin were asked to identify them. A National Disaster Operations Center was also set up at the capital’s Nyayo Stadium to provide information to those still trying to make contact with survivors, Health Secretary James Macharia told reporters in the capital.
More than 500 students survived the attack and were being bused to the stadium for counseling and at least temporary relocation of their studies.
Shabab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage told Radio Andalus in Somalia that the militant group was responsible for the attack as part of its mission to “mercilessly” execute Christians.
Christian and Muslim leaders in Kenya urged their communities to unite against the messages of hate and the militants’ aim to stir religious strife in the predominantly Christian country of 45 million with a burgeoning Muslim population in the east, including in Garissa.
Bishop Julius Kalu of the Mombasa Memorial Cathedral of the Anglican Church used his Good Friday sermon to urge Kenyans of all faiths to resist the extremists’ campaign to divide them.
“Security forces should not be discouraged in the fight against the terror elements,” the bishop was quoted as saying by the Daily Nation. “They should continue fighting to secure the country in a show of patriotism.”
Sheikh Khalifa, a leader of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya, condemned the Shabab attack and asked the National Cohesion and Integration Commission to take action against those spreading religious intolerance and provocation through social media, the newspaper said.
The four gunmen who waged the pre-dawn attack at the university died in the bloody climax of the raid. They detonated explosives strapped to their bodies as security forces moved in against them after 15 hours of executions and terror.
The Nairobi government offered a bounty of more than $50,000 for Mohammed Mohamud Kuno, the Shabab commander suspected of masterminding the Garissa attack, Kenyan media reported.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud called on Kenyatta to bolster cooperation in the fight to extinguish Shabab, which has been waging an insurgency in Somalia since 2006.
Thursday’s massacre at the university was the deadliest attack in Kenya since the 1998 Al Qaeda bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, where more than 200 died, mostly Kenyans.
Shabab was also behind the September 2013 attack at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in which 67 were killed.
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