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Kenya College Reopens Months After Al Shabaab Attack Killed 148

Photos on social media showed lecture halls with seats full on Monday as Garissa University College’s as staff returned to campus for the first time since gunmen from the militant launched the attack in April.

by Kayla Ruble
Jan 4 2016, 7:22pm

Photo par Noor Khamis/Reuters

The Kenya college attacked by gunmen from the Somali militant group al Shabaab in April, sparking a 15-hour long siege that left 148 people dead, officially re-opened today, more than nine months after the violence.

Photos on social media showed lecture halls with seats full for meetings on Monday as Garissa University College's professors and support staff returned to campus for the first time since the attack on April 2. Garissa is a three-year college based in northeastern Kenya, which lies near the border of Somalia — the home-base for al Shabaab, which claimed responsibility soon after the violence.

A total of 150 out of 200 total staff members returned to work today, Registrar Isaack Mohammed Noor told the Associated Press.

Students will be back on campus next Monday for classes to resume. A portion of tuition for more than 100 students will be funded by the French government, which declared its support for Kenya and the students in the wake of an attack that came just months after gunmen stormed the offices of weekly satirical publication Charlie Hebdo in Paris and killed 12.

More than 600 students who transferred to a sister campus will likely not return to Garissa University College.

In a boost to campus security, the college has added a police post on the premises, the BBC reported. In the wake of the attacks many criticized the government for the perceived security failures in the raid, which began at 5:30 in the morning. The assailants were equipped with explosives and threw grenades as they fired at students and kept the campus on lockdown for the next 15 hours. All four attackers were killed as police managed to liberate the campus. 

Anger over the massacre was compounded by the fact there were warnings the week before the events that indicated an attack on a university was imminent. Local residents accused the authorities of doing little to boost security in this under-developed region.

The incident added to criticism of President Uhuru Kenyatta's handling of attacks by al Shabaab within Kenya's borders. Garissa was the most violent assault by the militant group, but more than 400 people have been killed by al Qaeda-allied al Shabaab in the east African nation since Kenyatta took office in April 2013, including 67 who died in an attack on Nairobi's West Gate shopping mall in September of that year.

After the Garissa attack, Amnesty International issued a call for increased protections for students, staff, and residents in northern Kenya. According to the organization, residents in Garissa and surrounding areas have long asked for increased safety measures in the face of continued attacks by al Shabaab.

As well as Garissa, dozens of elementary and high schools near the college also closed in the wake of the attacks out of safety concerns. The government attempted to reopen the nearby Garissa Teachers Training College in May, after a new wall was built to protect the university. Hundreds of students, however, refused to return.

Reuters contributed to this report.