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03.07.2019 Kenya

Three accomplices given long sentences for Kenya university attack

By AFP
A Kenya court handed Hassan Aden Hassan, left, Mohamed Ali Abikar and Rashid Charles Mberesero long sentences for abetting the 2015 Garissa University attack.  By SIMON MAINA (AFP)
JUL 3, 2019 KENYA
A Kenya court handed Hassan Aden Hassan, left, Mohamed Ali Abikar and Rashid Charles Mberesero long sentences for abetting the 2015 Garissa University attack. By SIMON MAINA (AFP)

A Nairobi court Wednesday sentenced three men to terms ranging from 41 years to life in prison for abetting the massacre of 148 people by Somali jihadists at Garissa University in northeast Kenya in 2015.

Judge Francis Andayi said he considered the "helpless" nature of the victims -- mostly students, rounded up at dawn on their campus by gunmen and shot point blank -- when determining sentences for the trio.

"In this attack, many lives were lost and members of the public left in a panic," he told the conspirators, who were present in the courtroom as were family members of the victims.

He sentenced Rashid Charles Mberesero, a Tanzanian, to life for his involvement in the attack. Two Kenyans, Mohamed Ali Abikar and Hassan Aden Hassan, were each given 41 years.

The Garissa university terror attack was the second-bloodiest in Kenya's history.  By SIMON MAINA (AFP/File) The Garissa university terror attack was the second-bloodiest in Kenya's history. By SIMON MAINA (AFP/File)

Mberesero was given the longer sentence as he was arrested at the scene of the massacre and could not explain why he was there, the court was told.

Terry Korir, who said she lost a brother in the attack, said the trio should have been hanged.

"They will never understand what the victims went through and the gap they left in their families," she said after the sentences were handed down.

Kenya has the death penalty but has not executed a prisoner since 1987.

The trio were found guilty last month of being members of Al-Shabaab, a Somali jihadist group linked to al-Qaeda that carried out the attack.

Prosecutors showed the court evidence that the three had been in contact with the four gunmen ahead of the slaughter, especially be telephone.

Four Al-Shabaab shooters stormed the students' residence hall firing their weapons on April 2, 2015, before separating the victims according to their religion.

Prosecutors showed the court evidence that the three men had been in contact with the four gunmen ahead of the slaughter.  By Noor Khamis (AFP) Prosecutors showed the court evidence that the three men had been in contact with the four gunmen ahead of the slaughter. By Noor Khamis (AFP)

Muslims were allowed to go but the rest were slaughtered, most of them Christians.

It was the second-bloodiest terror attack in Kenya's history, surpassed only by al-Qaeda's bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi in 1998 that killed 213 people.

'Let them rot'

Duncan Kandie, who said his sister was killed, said the conspirators were no different to those who pulled the trigger.

"They killed her and they killed many others," he said.

"These are terrorists and terrorists have no place in the society. Let them rot in jail."

A fourth person, Sahal Diriye Hussein, was acquitted, according to the court's verdict, issued on June 19.

All four gunmen were killed by security forces.

Four Al-Shabaab shooters stormed the students' hall of residence firing their weapons on April 2, 2015.  By Iris de Vericourt (AFP/File) Four Al-Shabaab shooters stormed the students' hall of residence firing their weapons on April 2, 2015. By Iris de Vericourt (AFP/File)

In 2016, the operation's suspected ringleader, Mohamed Mohamud, also named "Kuno," a former professor at a Koranic school in Garissa, was killed in southwestern Somalia.

According to the Shabaab, he was killed by "US crusaders".

The Shabaab were chased out of Mogadishu in 2011 by the 22,000-strong African Union peace-enforcement mission, AMISOM.

They nevertheless control swathes of the countryside and remain the key threat to peace in Somalia.

The group is fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government in Mogadishu.

It has also carried a string of attacks in neighbouring Kenya, which has troops in AMISOM.

In September 2013, the Shabaab claimed responsibility for a raid on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi that killed 67 people over a four-day siege.

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