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Kenya bombs Somalia after university assault kills 148

Kenya’s regular air attacks on Somalia and Al Shabaab's frequent terror attacks are part of an ongoing conflict, explains Ken Olende

Issue No. 2448

Map showing Garissa, in Kenya, and Somalia

Students marched in Kenya’s capital Nairobi on Tuesday of this week, during a third day of national mourning after Al Shabaab militants killed 148 in Garissa University college. Many more were critically wounded. 

The attackers took 800 students hostage, and 142 of the dead were students.

The military killed the four militants 15 hours after they stormed the university. Survivors said the gunmen separated out Muslims before shooting others.

The Kenyan airforce bombed Somalia last Sunday and again on Monday, stating it was attacking Al Ashabaab bases. Its spokesperson said, “The Garissa attack was just a coincidence because the bases had been identified earlier."  

Kenya followed Ethiopia in invading Somalia four years ago and has been carrying out regular bombing raids ever since. 


The invasion pushed Al Shabaab out of the capital, Mogadishu, but it has kept up a guerrilla war ever since, spreading into terror attacks on Kenya.

Somali eyewitnesses told BBC reporters that civilians were hurt in the air strikes and such attacks are not as damaging to the militants as the Kenyan military makes out.

The university assault is the worst Al Shabaab attack in a continuing wave of violence that has included the 2013 attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping centre. 

Al Shabaab, which now associates itself with Isis, has recruited Kenyans, not just people with Somali backgrounds. 

Some see it as an alternative to the corruption and greed of Kenya’s Western-backed ruling class. 

One of the attackers was the son of a Kenyan government official.

Local political leaders in the Garissa region, close to the border with Somalia, have led a backlash against Somali refugees.

Some 335,000 live in the Dadaab refugee camps near the border. Many of these long predate the recent invasion, having fled the Somali civil war or the US attack (see box below). 

One local MP said, “They have been with us for the last 20 years. 

“I think time has come when the national security of our people becomes more paramount than the international obligations that we have.” 

He has called for them to be repatriated, though Somalia is still a war zone.

Many other Somalis live in Kenya’s towns and cities and the government’s anti-terror campaign means they are often treated as terrorists.


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