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Kenya officials suspended over university massacre

Kenya officials suspended over university massacre

Nine Kenyan officials have been suspended and could face charges of criminal negligence over the massacre at Garissa university earlier this month, the government said Tuesday, AFP reports.

Militants from Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab rebels attacked the university in the northeastern town on April 2, lining up non-Muslim students for execution and killing 148 people.

Kenya interior minister, Joseph Nkaissery, said the two civil servants and seven senior police officers in Garissa appeared to have failed to mobilise ahead of the attack despite intelligence warnings.

“I take this opportunity to warn all officers bestowed with the responsibility for the management of security across the country. Each will be held accountable for any acts of omission that endangers the lives and property of Kenyans,” the minister told reporters.

He said the suspended officials were under investigation and would face formal criminal charges if evidence of negligence is uncovered.

The Kenyan government and the country’s notoriously corrupt security forces have come in for renewed criticism following the massacre, with Kenyan media alleging that warnings were ignored, the university left virtually unguarded and response times slow.

Nkaissery, however, played down a controversy surrounding the use of a special police plane to transport the family of a senior police official back from their holiday on the coast on the day of the attack.

According to local media reports, elite anti-terror police had to wait several hours for the plane to pick them up from Nairobi for the Garissa mission.

But the interior minister insisted the plane was in the coastal region anyway on “an official training mission, and on its way back it gave a lift to the family” of the police air wing commander. He said this was authorised and did not affect the massacre response time.

The Garissa massacre was Kenya’s deadliest attack since the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi.

The government and the army has been trying to restore public confidence after the September 2013 Shebab attack on the Westgate shopping mall, which left 67 people dead.

During the security operation to end the siege of the mall, security cameras filmed soldiers appearing to loot the destroyed shopping complex.

Subsequent Shebab attacks — including a string of brutal massacres in along the coast and in the northeast — prompted President Uhuru Kenyatta to sack his previous interior minister and police chief in December.

The Shebab has stepped up cross-border attacks on Kenyan soil as part of what it says is retaliation for Kenya’s 2011 invasion and continued presence in Somalia as part of the African Union’s AMISOM force.