(Voice of the Perseucted) An unknown number of students are being held hostage after gunmen stormed Garissa University. As the jihadists—Al-Shabaab engaged in a shoot out with authorities, 147 people were killed, many injured and hostages taken. The group said they are “holding many Christians alive.”
Around 5:30 a.m, the attack came as morning prayers began at the university mosque. The worshipers were not attacked by the gunmen. The chaos sent the students scattering for safety. Many of the university’s 815 students have not been accounted for.
Witnesses said they divided Christian students from Muslims, and then gunned them down without mercy. Many ran for their lives through a spray of bullets to find cover. Others escaped the dorms with the help of military soldiers at the scene. Another witness claimed, “Most of the people still inside there are girls.” Defense forces have the area surrounded.
Al-Shabaab originated as a branch of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which splintered into several smaller factions after its defeat in 2006 by Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the TFG’s Ethiopian military allies. The group describes itself as waging jihad against “enemies of Islam.” The group fights for the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic state.
Al-Shabaab is said to have many foreigners within its ranks, including recruiting those from western countries—particularly at the leadership level.
Al-Shabaab has been designated as a terrorist organization by Australia, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. As of June 2012, the US State Department has open bounties on several of the group’s senior commanders.
In 2011, Al-Shabaab claimed NGO’s were conducting illegal and inappropriate activities and banned all foreign non-governmental organizations from areas under its control. In retaliation for these alleged ulterior motives, it’s members intimidated, kidnapped and killed NGO and international workers, leading the organizations to suspend or withdraw their operations.
Their focus had primarily been within Somalia, but they have carried out deadly strikes in the region. The group took a hard hit and was weakened in the efforts to eradicate them. They now seem more focused on creating fear and chaos through terrorism on easy targets where the number of casualties may be large. The jihadi-linked group has been blamed for multiple attacks, including the terror operation at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in 2013. In the attack they executed 67 unarmed men, women and children.
In the struggle for influence and recognition, Al-Shabaab has been trying to maintain its relevancy similar to radicals such as ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Boko Haram—who they have connection with.