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Kenya begins three days of national mourning after massacre

Tony Karumba, AFP | A mother and daughter are reunited in Niairobi on April 04, 2015 after the girl survived a deadly al Shaabab attack on a college campus in Garissa.

Kenya began three days of national mourning Easter Sunday to honour the almost 150 victims of a massacre by Somali Islamist militant group al Shabaab on a college campus last Thursday.

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Across Kenya worshippers dedicated Easter Sunday ceremonies and prayers to the memory of the slaughtered students, many of whom were Christian. Flags were also flying at half-mast after President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the period of national mourning Saturday in a televised address from the capital Nairobi.

Kenyatta condemned the "barbaric slaughter" in his first address since the attack ended on Thursday.

The leader also warned that planners and financiers of attacks like the one that took place in Garissa town are “deeply embedded in our communities”.

Kenyatta said his administration would “respond in the severest ways possible” to the Garissa attack, which occurred Thursday when four gunmen entered a campus and slaughtered students. The military moved in hours later and the gunmen were killed.

“We will fight terrorism to the end,” said Kenyatta. “I want you to know that our security forces are pursuing the remaining accomplices. We will bring all of them to justice ... We are also in active pursuit of the mastermind (of the attack) and have placed a reward for his capture,” he said.

Kenyatta urged survivors of the attack “to continue working hard in their education”.

Kenyatta’s nationwide address came after al Shabaab warned of more attacks in Kenya.

“Kenyan cities will run red with blood,” said al Shabaab according to the SITE intelligence monitoring group.

The Islamic militants said the attack on Garissa University College was in retaliation for killings carried out by Kenyan troops fighting the rebels in Somalia.

“This will be a long, gruesome war of which you, the Kenyan public, are its first casualties,” said the statement, issued on Shabaab-affiliated websites and Twitter accounts.

“No amount of precaution or safety measures will be able to guarantee your safety, thwart another attack or prevent another bloodbath,” it said.

Suspects tried to return to Somalia

A Kenyan official said five people have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the Garissa attack.

Kenyan security agencies arrested three people trying to cross into Somalia, said interior ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka in a Twitter post. He said the three are associates of Mohamed Mohamud  also known as Dulyadin, Gamadhere and Kuno – a former teacher at a Kenyan Madrassa Islamic school who authorities say coordinated the Garissa attack. Kenyan authorities have put a $220,000 bounty for information leading to Gamadhere’s arrest.

Two other suspects were arrested at Garissa University College.

A survivor of the killings at the campus was found on Saturday, two days after the attack.

Survivor hid in wardrobe

Cynthia Cheroitich, 19, told The Associated Press from her hospital gurney that she hid in a wardrobe and covered herself with clothes, refusing to emerge even when some of her classmates came out of hiding at the demands of the gunmen.

She was rescued shortly before 10am, according to Kenyan officials. Cheroitich said she did not believe that rescuers urging her to come out of her hiding place were there to help, suspecting at first that they were militants.

“How do I know that you are the Kenyan police?” she said she asked them.

Only when Kenyan security forces had one of her teachers appeal to her did she come out, she said.

“I was just praying to my God,” Cheroitich, a Christian, said of her ordeal.

Cheroitich appeared tired and thirsty, sipping on yoghurt and a soft drink, but otherwise seemed in good health.

She said she drank a body lotion because she was so thirsty and hungry while in hiding.

Authorities displayed the bodies of the alleged attackers before about 2,000 people in a large open area in central Garissa. The bodies lay on the bed of a pickup truck that drove slowly past the crowd, which broke into a run in pursuit. Soldiers monitored the crowd. There was shouting and clouds of dust rose as the vehicle left the area.

Spectator Yusuf Mohamed applauded the display, saying authorities wanted to “win the hearts of the people” and clear any doubts that the attackers had been killed.

Kenyan authorities initially said the attackers had been strapped with explosives that went off like bombs when they were shot, but investigators later said there were no suicide vests. The four bodies shown Saturday had wounds but were intact.

The bodies of many of those killed in Garissa have been transported to Nairobi where grieving Kenyans gathered to view the remains of family members.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

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