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Kenya al-Shabab attack: Victims’ bodies sent to Nairobi

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The bodies of many of those killed by Islamist militants at a Kenyan university are being moved to the capital Nairobi for identification.

At least 147 people died when al-Shabab militants stormed Garissa University in north-eastern Kenya, near Somalia.

Four of the gunmen involved were killed by security forces.

Police in neighbouring Uganda say the country is on high alert after receiving information that Al-Shabab was planning a similar attack there.

The mortuaries in Garissa have been unable to cope, and many of the students killed came from other parts of the country.

The BBC’s Anne Soy saw ambulances leaving the Garissa campus on Friday. Hundreds of survivors are also being sent home.

Burials for the Muslims killed in the attack are expected to start taking place.

A dusk-to-dawn curfew has been imposed across north-eastern Kenya. The masked attackers rampaged through the campus at dawn on Thursday, shooting and shouting “we are al-Shabab”. A second-year student who hid for 10 hours in a wardrobe is one of about 500 survivors still being held at a military facility, where they are undergoing counselling.

Her father drove for four hours from Nairobi when he was unable to get hold of her during the siege. He told the BBC about his desperate search for his daughter at the mortuary, hospital and military airstrip. Late in the afternoon, when he had almost given up hope, he got a text: “Dad call me”. They have yet to be reunited but his relief is palpable.

Questions are being asked about the university’s security. One survivor, who hid in bushes for five hours, told the BBC that students had raised the issue at the end of last year, but only two armed guards had been provided. One of the few students from the local community, he said he would never set foot on the campus again. The heavily armed gunmen killed two security guards first, then fired indiscriminately at students, many of whom were still asleep in their dormitories. They singled out Christians and shot them, witnesses said.

Eric Wekesa, a student at Garissa, told Reuters he locked himself in his room before eventually fleeing.

“What I managed to hear from them is ‘We came to kill or finally be killed.’ That’s what they said.”

Another survivor, Helen Titus, told the news agency AP that one of the first things the gunmen did when they assaulted the campus was head for the lecture hall, where Christian students were gathered for morning prayer.

“They investigated our area. They knew everything,” the 21-year-old said.

While many of the survivors speak to the media, little is known so far about those who were killed.

The BBC’s Frenny Jowi says Kenyan media are cautious in their coverage because of a new anti-terror law that stipulates heavy fines for material “likely to cause fear”. More than 20 security officers were killed by a sniper at the university, the BBC’s Caroline Karobia reports.

The gunmen were eventually cornered in a dormitory by Kenyan security forces. Four of them died when their suicide vests detonated. A fifth gunman was reportedly arrested.

More than 500 students managed to escape. Al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, said it carried out the attack. The group says it is at war with Kenya, which sent troops to Somalia in 2011 to fight the militants.

Al-Shabab was also blamed for the Westgate Mall massacre in Nairobi in 2013 in which 67 people died.

Kenyan authorities are to hold an emergency meeting to assess security in the region. There has been criticism that Garissa should have been better protected.

The government has offered a reward of $53,000 (£36,000) for the man it says planned the killing – Mohamed Kuno, a former Kenyan schoolteacher, now thought to be in Somalia.

On Friday, the government also issued a list of nine other wanted al-Shabab leaders, urging the public to contact the police immediately if they spotted them.

At a joint news conference local religious leaders condemned the attack and appealed for unity.

Speaking during a Good Friday service in Mombasa, Anglican Church bishop Julius Kalu said “terrorists wanted to divide the country into religious factions and that must be resisted”.

A student who left Garissa before the attack to go on her Easter break told the BBC there had been tension between the majority Christian student body and hardline Muslims in the town.

When she joined the university last year she was warned not to openly carry a bible to church on Sunday as Christian students had been attacked before. (BBC)