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Recce squad officer killed in Garissa attack laid to rest

12 April 2015, 10:00

Cheleget - Most walked for several kilometres (miles) on dusty paths to the remote village in southwestern Kenya, others arrived in bicycle taxis, the privileged in cars and even helicopters.

Thousands of Kenyans Saturday flooded Cheleget village in the Rift Valley to give a hero's burial to police Corporal Benard Kipkemoi Tonui who died fighting to end the Islamic extremist attack on Garissa University College which killed 148 people on April 2.

Tonui was part of the police department's Recce Company, a special unit trained in counter-terrorism, hostage situations and close-quarters combat, which stopped the attack on the college in eastern Kenya in less than 30 minutes. This was after the army and regular police had tried for more than 12 hours to stop the four gunmen from Somalia's al-Shabab militant rebels from killing students.

Burial for victims of the attack started Friday after the government released the bodies to their families.

Simon Sanga, Tonui's father told the crowd he cried and asked God "Why me?" when he received news of his son's death.

"It is not even two years since I buried another son, a police officer, also killed an al-Shabab attack in Garissa," Sanga said.

Sanga said in grief he thought about taking matters into his own hands to avenge his sons' deaths but after praying he removed those thoughts from his mind.

Bomet County Governor Isaac Ruto called on the government to equip and compensate the police to help them combat the extremists.

Mourners climbed trees to witness the coffin being lowered to the grave by the Recce Company in green uniforms and red berets. The 21-gun salute startled some in the trees, causing them to hurriedly climb down.

The success of Recce Company has given a much needed boost to the image of the Kenya police, which many deride as ineffective and corrupt. The nation's police cope with poor pay and difficult working conditions. Transparency International has ranked the police as Kenya's most corrupt institution.

Kenya has suffered a series of extremist attacks since October 2011, when it sent it troops to Somalia to fight al-Shabab.

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- AP


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