Outrage as four pupils killed in dawn Shabaab attack at Garissa school
Suspected al Shabaab militants yesterday killed four pupils in a cold-blood attack in Garissa county in an incident that has left residents and education stakeholders outraged.
The early morning attack at Saretho Boarding Primary School in Dadaab sub-county happened as the pupils who had reported for the new term slept in a makeshift structure because their dormitory was being renovated.
Three of the victims, Abdifatah Mohamed, a Class Seven pupil aged 16, Suleiman Mohamed, 15, who was also in Class Seven and Abdinajib Mohamed (14) in Class Four, were brothers. Also killed in the 2.30am incident was Abdirahman Ibrahim, a 15-year-old Class Six pupil.
Three other pupils and a security officer were injured during the attack.
National Police Service spokesman Charles Owino confirmed the attack in a region located some 130 kilometres away from Garissa town, but said five people, including a teacher and a small child, died in the attack. Owino said two of the militants died in the attack that happened about 25 kilometres from Dadaab.
Police officers recovered two AK47 rifles, crude weapons and materials used to make Improvised Explosive Devices.
According to the school headteacher Sofia Ali Guhad, nine pupils had reported for the beginning of the first term and because their dormitory was still under renovation, she requested them to spend the night in a two-roomed iron sheet house in the staff quarters that is next to the local police post.
The teacher said she was woken up by heavy gunfire at around 2.30am and minutes later a security officer knocked at her door to inform her that four of the students had been shot dead by suspected militants.
“This is the worst news I’ve received this new year. The students were in a jovial mood and ready to start their studies but unfortunately the al Shabaab have cut short the lives of brilliant young boys who had a really promising future,” Sofia mourned.
Special forces who responded to the raid killed two of the attackers as they tried to plant explosives at the nearby Safaricom communication mast.
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha condemned the killings, terming the act “cowardly”.
Last evening, Garissa County Director of Education Khalifa Issack announced that the school had been closed indefinitely and pupils asked to go home.
The official said it was difficult for the school that had lost four pupils to continue with normal teaching programmes.
Police sources said the attackers numbering about 20 seemed to know their way around, and are said to have split into two groups with one heading to the Safaricom mast area as the other headed to the police post.
When the second group found that the security officers they were targeting had retreated they went to the teachers’ quarters used by non-locals, hoping that they had reported for the new term.
One of the victims who requested anonymity said the militants asked the pupils to open the door and because they were frightened, they refused.
“It’s at this juncture that they opened fire punching numerous holes through the iron sheet walls and by the time the guns went silent three pupils lay dead in a pool of blood,” the source said.
The fourth pupil succumbed to his injuries at around 5am yesterday.
The two rooms were littered with uniforms soaked in blood and other personal effects. More than 100 used cartridges were collected for ballistic examination.
The attackers are said to have escaped on foot towards Fafi sub-county. The mutilated bodies of the two militants killed at the mast were removed by police from the special crimes unit for fingerprints and disposal.
The mast was damaged, affecting mobile phone communication in the area.
The bodies of the four boys were interred at a cemetery in Saretho yesterday afternoon in an emotional ceremony in accordance with Muslim traditions.
Relatives wailed uncontrollably as the bodies were prepared for burial. Security was tight around the scene.
Garissa County Commissioner Meru Mwangi said three pupils and a security officer attached to Saretho police post sustained injuries and were rushed to Dadaab sub-county hospital for treatment.
Mwangi, who led the county security team to the scene, condemned the attack, saying quick response by security forces had saved a situation that “could have been uglier”. The administrator said a multi-agency team is in hot pursuit of the attackers.
“We are doing everything within our powers to ensure that the attackers pay for the crime,” Mwangi said.
Security personnel recovered two AK47 rifles and 87 rounds of ammunition from the slain militants. Also recovered were eight undetonated IEDs.