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One Dead After Blast Causes Panicked Kenyan Students to Leap From Windows Amid al Shabaab Fears

An electricity transformer exploded Sunday morning at the University of Nairobi campus, causing a stampede by students who feared al Shabaab was attacking the school.
April 12, 2015, 5:30pm
Photo par Sayyid Azim/AP

An electricity transformer exploded Sunday morning at the University of Nairobi campus, triggering a deadly stampede of students who feared the campus was under attack and attempted to flee from their residence halls.

Some students jumped out of windows several floors off the ground, leaving one dead and more than 100 others injured. The incident occurred on the heels of the al Shabaab attack at Garissa University College on April 2 that killed 148 people.

The fatality in the recent incident was the result of a student jumping out of a window at the University of Kenya's Kikuyu campus, the school's vice chancellor Peter Mbithi told Reuters.

"We have lost one male student who fell from fifth floor," Mbithi said, speaking from the emergency section of Kenyatta National Hospital.

Related: Human rights groups caught in the crossfire after Kenyan university attack.

The transformer exploded around 4:30am local time, causing three blasts and a blackout that sparked fears of yet another terrorist attack.

"We thought it was another al Shabaab attack," Eddy Capella, a first-year student, told Reuters.

Sunday's incident comes at a tense moment for Kenyan students in the wake of the university siege in the northeastern part of the country that largely targeted Christian students. The violence has also created tension between students and the government, with many concerned that the response at Garissa was too slow. There was reportedly a seven-hour lag from when authorities were alerted that gunmen had entered the campus to when they got to the scene. Students took to the streets Tuesday to protest the police response.

Related: Kenya hits back after university massacre with airstrikes on al Shabaab in Somalia.

In a separate move Saturday, the Kenyan government said the United Nations has just three months to get rid of a refugee camp — Africa's largest — that houses many Somalis, a move linked with the country's harsh crackdown after the attacks.

"We have asked the UNHCR to relocate the refugees in three months, failure to which we shall relocate them ourselves," Deputy President William Ruto said, announcing the request. "The way America changed after 9/11 is the way Kenya will change after Garissa."

The Dadaab refugee camp, an hour away from the town of Garissa, houses more than 600,000 Somalis who have fled their home country, some arriving as far back as 1991 during their country's civil war. Officials have previously targeted the camp as a fertile recruiting territory for the Somali-based Islamist militant group al Shabaab. The government has requested the camp be moved into Somalia.

Kenya's United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) head Emmanuel Nyabera told the BBC moving the camp would be a "logistic challenge." Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch Africa deputy director Leslie Lefkow slammed the move.

"Instead of scapegoating refugees, Kenya is legally obliged to protect them until it is safe for them to return home and should identify and prosecute those responsible for the killings in Garissa," she told the BBC.

Related: Al Shabaab promises 'gruesome war' in Kenya after massacre at university.

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