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Official: Al Shabaab terrorist was a law graduate

05 April 2015, 14:03

Nairobi - The son of a government official has been identified as one of the gunmen who attacked Garissa University College where 148 people were killed, authorities said Sunday.

Abdirahim Mohammed Abdullahi, one of the gunmen who attacked the university, was the son of a chief in Mandera County, Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka told The Associated Press.

The chief had reported his son missing last year and said he feared that he had gone to Somalia, said Njoka. All four attackers were killed by security forces on Thursday, said police.

Abdullahi graduated from the University of Nairobi with a law degree in 2013 and was viewed as a "brilliant upcoming lawyer," according to someone who knew him. It is not clear where he worked before he disappeared last year, Njoka said.

To prevent an escalation of radicalization in Kenya, it is important that parents inform authorities if their children go missing or show tendencies of following violent extremism, said Njoka.

Somalia's al-Shabaab militants claimed responsibility for the attack on Garissa college Thursday saying it is retribution for Kenya deploying troops to Somalia to fight the extremist rebels.

Grieving Christians prayed, sang and clapped hands at an Easter Sunday service at a Catholic church in Garissa.

Security forces patrolled the perimeter of Our Lady of Consolation Church, which was attacked by militants almost three years ago. Grenades lobbed at the building sprayed shrapnel into the interior, injuring some worshippers. Another Garissa church was also attacked that day and 17 people were killed.

Sunday's ceremony was laden with emotion for the several hundred members of Garissa's Christian minority, which is fearful following the attack by al-Shabaab, a Somalia-based extremist group. The gunmen who attacked Garissa University College on Thursday singled out Christians for killing, though al-Shabaab has a long record of killing Muslims over the years.

"We just keep on praying that God can help us, to comfort us in this difficult time," said Dominick Odhiambo, a worshipper who said he planned to abandon his job as a plumber in Garissa and leave for his hometown because he was afraid.

"Thank you for coming, so many of you," Bishop Joseph Alessandro said to the congregation. He said some of those who died in Thursday's attack would have been at the service, and he read condolence messages from around the world.

Alessandro saw a parallel between the ordeal of Jesus Christ, which Easter commemorates, and that of Garissa.

"We join the sufferings of the relatives and the victims with the sufferings of Jesus," he said. "The victims will rise again with Christ."

Alessandro, who is from Malta, first came to Garissa in 1989 and was shot and injured by bandits on a trip outside the town several years later. He said there had been development in recent years in the area, as well as an increase in insecurity because of al-Shabaab.

"You don't know who they are. They could be your neighbors," he said. A heavy security presence only helps up to a point and more intelligence on the militants is needed, he said.

The church service was spirited, combining incense, candles and other traditions with local, upbeat singing styles. Worshippers swayed to the rhythm of the hymns in the simple structure, with latticed walls that let light and a breeze through rectangular openings. Fans mounted above images of the stations of the cross helped to cool the crowd. Birds chirped from the upper reaches of the high ceiling, which consists of metal sheeting.

Roseline Oduor said she is worried because the church had been attacked in the past.

"Having courage as a Christian, we just have that faith with coming to church," Oduor said. "We have gone through what Jesus went through."

She said: "When the day comes, you cannot run away from death, whether under a tree, in bed, anywhere."

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

"No amount of precaution or safety measures will be able to guarantee your safety, thwart another attack or prevent another bloodbath," said al-Shabaab.

Five people have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the Garissa attack, an official said.

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- AP


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