Kenyan planes in fresh strikes on fanatics

Soldiers from the Kenya Defence Forces patrol inside the Garissa University College compound yesterday. Picture: AP
Soldiers from the Kenya Defence Forces patrol inside the Garissa University College compound yesterday. Picture: AP
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The Kenyan military said it has launched air strikes against Islamic militants in Somalia following an extremist attack on a university that killed 148 people.

Colonel David Obonyo, a military spokesman, said planes attacked positions of the al-Shabaab militant group on Sunday afternoon and early yesterday morning.

Al-Shabaab, which is based in Somalia, claimed responsibility for the college attack on Thursday in the Kenyan town of Garissa.

“This is part of continuing operations, not just in response to Garissa,” said Mr Obonyo.

The planes bombarded the camps on Sunday but then noticed movement yesterday and bombed again, he said.

The camps, which were used to store arms and for logistical support, were destroyed but it was not possible to determine the number of casualties because of poor visibility from the air, he said.

“The planes were hovering around for a few minutes then started bombing the area,” said Hawa Yusuf, a resident of Gabdon village, near Beledhawa town which is close to Somalia’s border with Kenya.

Ali Hussein, another resident of Gabdon, said: “We don’t know if there were any causalities. The planes struck a grassland where nomads often take their animals for grazing.”

It comes as Kenyan army troops walked through Garissa University College. Shoes were scattered around and washed clothing still hung from a clothesline next to a dormitory.

Kenya has troops in Somalia as part of an African Union force to attack al-Shabaab and shore up the beleaguered Somali government.

Al-Shabaab said it attacked students at Garissa University College as a reprisal for Kenya sending troops into Somalia. The attackers separated Christian students from Muslim ones and massacred the Christians.

It comes a day after one of the college gunmen was identified as the law-school-educated son of a Kenyan government official.

Abdirahim Mohammed Abdullahi, who was killed by security forces along with the three other militants, was the son of a government chief in Mandera County, which borders Somalia. Abdullahi graduated from the University of Nairobi with a law degree in 2013 and was seen as a “brilliant upcoming lawyer”.

The chief had reported his son missing last year and feared he had gone to Somalia.

The news that one of the gunmen was Kenyan highlights the challenges faced by the government in preventing terrorist attacks. The danger comes not only from neighbouring Somalia but also from within Kenya.

Kenyans make up the largest number of foreign fighters in al-Shabab, according to experts. Hundreds of Kenyan youths have trained with al-Shabaab and then returned to Kenya, posing a major security threat.

Meanwhile, questions have been raised about the security response to the Garissa attack.

Police waited seven hours before sending a special tactical unit into the college to fight the gunmen, Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper reported.

When the specially trained police finally went in, it took them only 30 minutes to kill the four attackers and stop the siege, the paper said.

Army barracks are just 500 yards from the college, and military officers said they could handle the attack, said a police officer. Only after three soldiers were killed did the army call in the police tactical unit, he added.