Garissa attack: Kenyan minister admits tipoff on al-Shabaab assault was ignored

A woman is rescued from the building where she had been held hostage after a fierce gunfight between Kenyan soldiers and al-Shabaab attackers at Garissa University. Photograph: Dai Kurokawa/EPA

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Kenya’s interior minister has admitted that intelligence was ignored and the security response botched regarding the Islamist massacre of nearly 150 people at Garissa university in April.

“There was lack of coordination on the side of the officers,,” Joseph Nkaissery told a parliamentary committee on Thursday. “There was intelligence that this place was going to be attacked.”

The interior minister said security should have been “beefed up” but was not, and that once the attack began a “lack of coordination” undermined the response.

Militants from Somalia’s al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab rebels killed 148 people during the assault on Garissa University College in north-east Kenya on 2 April. It was the group’s deadliest attack to date.

The intelligence and security failings are reminiscent of the 2013 attack on Nairobi’s Westgate mall, when prior intelligence was also ignored and there was a similarly botched response, during which a lack of coordination led to the Kenyan army and police firing on each other.

Appearing before a parliamentary security committee, Nkaissery – who was appointed interior minister in December after his predecessor was sacked following a series of deadly al-Shabaab attacks – defended his ministry and instead blamed regional and county security officials for the failings.

Earlier in April two civil servants and seven police officers were suspended pending investigation into suspected negligence.

Nkaissery also said that because the busy university hostels were “congested” and had grilles on the windows it was difficult for students to escape and for soldiers and a specially trained police unit to get inside the buildings, meaning more lives were lost.

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