Militants from Somalia's al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group killed at least 147 people after storming a university campus in northeast Kenya on Thursday. A student recounted his escape to FRANCE 24, explaining that students had previously complained that security was too lax at the campus.
Garissa University is located in northeast Kenya, near the border with Somalia. A spokesperson for al Shabaab told AFP that they were holding Christian students hostage, and had let Muslim students go. Al Shabaab have previously carried out multiple attacks in Garissa and in the capital Nairobi – including at the Westgate mall in 2013 – as revenge for Kenya sending troops into Somalia to fight the group.
"They kept shooting at us as we ran; some students fell down"
Most students live on campus, and like most students, I was fast asleep in my student hostel [AKA dormitory] when they attacked. I woke up when I heard gunshots. They were shooting right at our building. There were several of them, I think five; they wore masks and had what looked like sophisticated rifles, but I don’t know which kind. I was lucky to be living on the ground floor, so I got out fast. A bunch of us ran out of the hostel, jumped over a fence and ran towards the woods. They kept shooting at us as we ran; some students fell down.
Most of the students dispersed in the woods. I saw that one of them had been shot in the hand. We kept hearing gunshots coming from the campus. Soon enough I was with just one of my friends; it took us almost an hour to reach the town. Usually it takes just 30 minutes by foot on the road, but we had to pick our way through the woods. When we arrived, we went to the police station, and now we’re staying at a good Samaritan’s house and following the developments through the media.
I keep calling my friends to see if they’re all okay, but many aren’t answering. Many of my friends are Catholic, so I’m afraid that they could have been taken hostage. I think it’s possible, though, that they just didn’t grab their phones when they fled.
“There were not enough guards protecting our campus”
As soon as I can, I want to leave Garissa and go stay with family in Nairobi. I don’t feel safe here. When the attackers arrived on campus, there were only two guards, as is usually the case – that’s really not enough in an area like this, where al Shabaab can strike at any time. Students complained about this just last year, asking the school for more guards … and now look what’s happened.