Garissa attack: How Kenyan woman hid for 28 and a half hours

2015-04-05 15:00

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Kenyan woman tells how she hid away from armed terrorists as they mowed down 148 students after tricking them to their brutal deaths

She had spent 48 hours huddled in a cupboard, surviving only on body lotion.

But still the 19-year-old student refused to come out of hiding.

She was terrified of the heavily armed men who had stormed the Garissa University College in the east of Kenya two days earlier telling fellow students, “If you want to survive, come out! If you want to die, stay inside!”, only to brutally execute them.

The teenager only left the cupboard when security officials brought in a teacher to convince her it was safe, reported the BBC.

The tale of the latest survivor to emerge from hiding after two days emerged yesterday as Kenya continued to take stock after Thursday’s gruesome 15-hour siege by four al-Shabaab terrorists.

It claimed the lives of at least 148 people and left about 79 wounded.

Four people were found alive on the campus on Friday, including two suspects.

Yesterday, as buses left the makeshift camp in Garissa – 150km from the Somali border – where an estimated 500 survivors had been accommodated for two days, Somali militants vowed to wage a long war against Kenya and run its cities “red with blood”, reported Reuters.

In the message, the al-Qaeda-aligned group said the raid was retribution for Kenya’s military presence in Somalia and the mistreatment of Muslims in Kenya.

“No amount of precaution or safety measures will be able to guarantee your safety, thwart another attack or prevent another blood bath from occurring in your cities,” the group said in an emailed statement received by Reuters.

“This will be a long, gruesome war of which you, the Kenyan public, are its first casualties.”

The students were making their way home after the college – which had 815 students – was closed indefinitely on Friday, reported Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper.

Al-Shabaab’s declaration of war came as new details emerged of how only four fighters, with just a few light weapons, managed to pull off Kenya’s worst atrocity since the bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi in 1998.

Survivors recalled how they had seen posters on Wednesday warning of an imminent attack.

They “ignored” or dismissed it as an April Fools’ joke.

“Yesterday there were those notices, but as it was April 1, we thought it was fooling,” a student identified only as Katherine told AFP on Thursday.

However, students from a nearby teachers’ training college said they had also been warned that “strangers”, suspected to be terrorists, had been spotted in Garissa in the days leading up to the attack.

As a result, their college was closed and they were sent home.

Garissa University students told of how the terrorists lured others to their deaths.

Elosy Karimi (23) told the New York Times how the militants had tricked students into coming out of hiding by yelling, “If you want to survive, come out! If you want to die, stay inside!”

Many students had fallen for the trick, voluntarily leaving their rooms and obeying commands to lie down in neat rows, only to be shot in the back of their heads.

Karimi said she had decided to take a risk by staying inside, hiding in the ceiling above her bunk bed for 28 and a half hours.

“I knew those guys were lying,” she said from the hospital where she was being treated.

The Telegraph reported that most of the victims had died execution-style as they lined up waiting for their turn to be shot, according to a senior Kenyan government source.

Some students were killed as they spoke to their parents on the phone, having been ordered to call with messages from the gunmen that their aim was to force Kenyan troops to leave Somalia, added the source.

Survivors said the vest-clad gunmen also told students they were “here to make your Easter holidays better” and warned of further attacks to come.

The gunmen targeted Christians and left Muslims, according to al-Qaeda guidelines.

The terrorists who attacked the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi two years ago also followed these guidelines, said The Telegraph.

One survivor described how the terrorists had headed directly to a lecture hall where Christian students had gathered for an early morning prayer session.

Another told how Muslim classmates tried to dissuade the terrorists from their murderous spree, but were ordered to go to the college’s mosque where they were told they would be safe from harm.

The 15-hour siege only ended when the trapped gunmen, who were strapped with explosives, blew up “like bombs” as they were shot by an elite special forces squad, Kenya’s interior minister Joseph Nkaissery said on Friday.

The Telegraph’s government source said when the squad reached the room where the attackers were holed up, they had six hostages with them, whom they killed.

They then detonated their vests as they died in a hail of bullets.

Nkaissery said late on Friday that police were interviewing five suspects after making three additional arrests on Friday.

Thursday’s atrocity piled further pressure on President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has struggled to stop frequent militant gun and grenade attacks that have dented Kenya’s image abroad and brought the country’s vital tourism industry to its knees.

Local media, whose coverage has been uncharacteristically tame due to a new law that forbids them from showing images that will create “fear” among the public, have been sceptical about the government’s latest promise to halt the violence.

More than 400 people have been killed by al-Shabaab on Kenyan soil since Kenyatta took power in April 2013, including the 67 people who died in September that year during the siege on the Westgate shopping mall.

On Wednesday, Kenyatta had criticised the UK for warning British tourists against “all but essential travel” to a larger part of Kenya’s beach coast due to a “high threat from terrorism”.

He said this was based on “untrue” information about Kenya’s security.

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