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April 3, 2015

Somali group launches deadly attack on Kenyan university

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147 people died at Garissa University College in Kenya in an attack by the terrorist group al-Shabab.

Al-Shabab emerged in Somalia in 2006 and is connected to the al-Qaeda network responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States.

The group said the attack was revenge for Kenya sending troops to fight them in Somalia as part of a mission with the African Union.

It may also have been an attempt to gain attention at a time when international focus is turned toward other groups like the Islamic State, said Kenneth Menkhaus, a professor at Davidson College who has researched the group. “They have been completely eclipsed by ISIS over the past year and have lost recruits and interest. And this one way to regain that very quickly,” he said.

The group attacked a shopping mall in the Kenyan capital Nairobi in 2013. It routinely threatens non-Muslims and singled out Christians in the most recent attack, suggesting that it is trying to “drive a wedge” between Christians and Muslims in Kenya, Menkhaus said.

The group mainly operates in Somalia, which has been destabilized by warring factions for decades. Somalia was first established in 1960 from territories that had been colonized by Italy and Great Britain. Former Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre’s administration held power from 1969 to 1991 and the country slid into over two decades of civil war.

Northern Kenya, where Garissa is located, is an area where al-Shabab can travel undetected more easily because it is home to many ethnic Somalis of Kenyan citizenship, Menkhaus said.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has called for citizens to remain calm, and announced Kenya will expedite training for 10,000 police recruits in response to the attack.


Warm up questions
  1. Where is Kenya?
  2. What is colonization, and what do you know about British colonialism in Africa?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why would al-Shabab want to gain more attention in Kenya? What do you think the group is trying to accomplish?
  2. How should Kenya respond to the attack? What about neighboring countries?
  3. How do recent events in Somalia and Kenya affect the international community?
  4. Given the history of European involvement in Somalia, do they have a responsibility to the region?
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