Kenyatta says campus attackers ’embedded’ in Kenya’s Muslim community

admin   •   April 5, 2015   •   2600

Mortuary attendants assisted by Red Cross staff push bodies of the students killed in Thursday’s attack by gunmen into the Chiromo Mortuary in Nairobi April 3, 2015. REUTERS/Herman Kariuki

(Reuters) – Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Saturday that those behind an attack in which al Shabaab Islamist militants killed 148 people at a university were “deeply embedded” in Kenya, and called on Kenyan Muslims to help prevent radicalization.

His televised speech in response to Thursday’s 15-hour siege at the Garissa university campus came after the Interior Ministry said five suspects in the assault had been detained, some while trying to flee to Somalia.

Four suspects were Kenyans of Somali origin, and the fifth was Tanzanian, the ministry said. The suspected mastermind, Mohamed Mohamud, a former teacher at a Garissa madrasa, is still on the run. Kenya has offered a 20 million shillings ($215,000) reward for his arrest.

“Our task of countering terrorism has been made all the more difficult by the fact that the planners and financiers of this brutality are deeply embedded in our communities,” Kenyatta said.

“Radicalization that breeds terrorism is not conducted in the bush at night. It occurs in the full glare of day, in madrasas, in homes, and in mosques with rogue imams.”

The attack at Garissa, which lies 200 km (120 miles) from the Somali border, has put Kenya on high alert and spooked its Christian communities after reports the gunmen sought out Christian students while sparing some Muslims.

Kenyatta’s comments will put more pressure on Kenya’s Muslim community, who make up about 10 percent of the 44-million-strong population.

More than 400 people have been killed by al Shabaab on Kenyan soil since he took power two years ago, including 67 people who died during a siege in September 2013 on a Nairobi shopping mall.

Earlier on Thursday, Somali militants vowed to wage a long war against Kenya and run its cities “red with blood”.

In a message directed at Kenyans, the al Qaeda aligned group said the raid on Garissa was revenge for Kenya’s military presence in Somalia and mistreatment of Muslims within Kenya.

“No amount of precaution or safety measures will be able to guarantee your safety, thwart another attack or prevent another bloodbath from occurring in your cities,” the group said in an emailed statement received by Reuters in the Somali capital.

Four attackers died at Garissa, but Kenya has not named them or announced their nationalities. The authorities put their bullet-ridden, swollen bodies on display on Saturday, hoping that crowds coming to view the corpses might identify them.

The interior ministry said three suspects arrested at the border had coordinated the attack. Two were detained at the university, including a security guard and a Tanzanian man named as Rashid Charles Mberesero.

“We suspect the Tanzanian, who was hiding in the ceiling, was one of the combatants. He had ammunition with him when he was arrested on Thursday night,” ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka told Reuters. “We suspect the guard facilitated the entry (into the university).”

The Kenya Red Cross said it had found a woman survivor on Saturday in the university, two days after the siege ended.

NO GOING BACK

Al Shabaab’s violence has dented Kenya’s image and ravaged the country’s vital tourism industry. The timing of the attack was embarrassing for Kenyatta, who a day earlier had berated Britain and Australia for issuing travel warnings for Kenya due to security threats.

Kenyatta rejected the notion that Nairobi has neglected Muslims and Kenyan Somalis, who say they are marginalized by the authorities.

But diplomats and analysts criticize what they see as Kenya’s heavy-handed approach in trying to tackle al Shabaab, saying tactics such as indiscriminate mass arrests of the Somali population plays into the radicals’ hands and fuels resentment among Muslims.

Garissa residents have reacted with fury to the massacre, and question why only two security guards were on duty despite warnings that al Shabaab was planning to target a university.

“You can’t say this will be the last attack in Garissa,” said construction worker Tobias Ayuka. “We are very worried.”

Fearful of further assaults, owners of malls in Nairobi and the port city of Mombasa have sought greater government protection and ratcheted up private security.

“We are getting more armed police and plain clothes police officers. Everywhere is on heightened alert right now,” said the owner of one high-end Nairobi mall popular with Westerners, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Along Kenya’s palm-fringed coastline, where several resort towns cater mainly for Western tourists, police have deployed armed officers in major public buildings.

“Officers are everywhere both on the ground and in the air. We have two helicopters that will be patrolling the entire coastal area,” Robert Kitur, police chief for Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast region, told Reuters.

Garissa Governor Nathif Jama said the region has a number of security “soft spots”, including schools and hospitals, and asked for more boots on the ground in his county, which forms part of Kenya’s porous 700km border with Somalia.

Jama said Garissa University was shut indefinitely and some students said even if it reopened, they would not return.

“When I just manage to get out of this place safely, I’m telling you I’ll never come back,” said Sheillah Kigasha, 20, who survived Thursday’s rampage by hiding under a bed.

(Additional reporting by Joseph Akwiri in Mombasa and Feisal Omar in Mogadishu; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Balloon internet service flying high over Kenya

UNTV News   •   July 9, 2020

Alphabet Inc began offering the world’s first commercial high-speed internet using balloons to villagers in remote regions of Kenya’s Rift Valley on Wednesday (July 8).

The technology has been used before, but not commercially. U.S. telecom operators used balloons to connect more than 250,000 people in Puerto Rico after a 2017 hurricane.

The project aims to provide affordable fourth generation (4G) internet to under-covered or uncovered rural communities and has been more than a decade in development.

The service is run by Loon, a unit of Google’s parent Alphabet, and Telkom Kenya, the East African nation’s third largest telecoms operator.

“Kenya is the first country… to have base stations high up in the sky. Now we will be able to cover the whole country in a very short span of time,” said Information Minister Joe Mucheru after launching the service.

According to Loon, the airborne base stations have a much wider coverage, about a hundred times the area of a traditional cell phone tower. The large balloons carry a solar panel and battery, and float in the upper atmosphere, high above planes and weather.

They are launched from facilities in California and Puerto Rico and controlled via computers in Loon’s flight station in Silicon Valley, using helium and pressure to steer.

They also have software equipped with artificial intelligence to navigate flight paths without much human intervention.

During the launch of the service in the vast, semi-arid county of Baringo in the heart of the Rift Valley, Mucheru placed a video call to President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Locals used to travel more than 60 km (40 miles) to the nearest towns for an internet connection.

Details of the commercial agreement between Loon and Telkom Kenya have not been made public. (Reuters)

(Jackson Njehia, Duncan Mriri)

Kenyan scientists reveal possible link between hot food, esophageal cancer

Robie de Guzman   •   May 7, 2019

Preliminary findings by scientists suggest that people who like their food and beverages to be warmer than 60 degrees celsius are at a higher risk of developing esophageal cancer.

In Kenya, hot food is widely believed to be healthier, while cold food is viewed as dull and unsatisfying.

“Most people prefer hot or warm food because this is the cold season. If you eat cold food, it will affect you. But if you eat hot food, you will feel warm and energetic,” said Nairobi resident Regan Dennis.

For years, researchers have sought to establish the effects of very hot food on the esophagus, the tube through which food travels to the stomach. A study published in the journal “cancer epidemiology” identified thermal injury from hot food and beverages as a possible cause of esophageal cancer.

“It’s an irritant, the heat. You are causing ulceration of the lining. The lining of the esophagus and the throat. And once you cause this constant damage to the lining, it leads to mutation and finally leads to cancer. So, it’s carcinogenic to cause constant irritation of the mucus lining,” said ENT Surgeon John Muiru.

Researchers found that tea drinkers who like their tea to be warmer than 60 degrees celsius and drank more than two large cups daily have a 90 percent higher risk of developing esophageal cancer.

This is bad news for tea-drinkers in Kenya’s western region, who are among those taking the hottest tea in the world. Their beverage is usually 72.1 degrees celsius.

“The ideal temperature is the body temperature, which is about 37 degrees centigrade. Anything above that will be damaging the cells. The cells are designed to survive within the body temperature,” Muiru said.

Esophageal cancer accounts for 11 percent of new cancer cases in Kenya. The latest discovery has had a jarring effect on tea-lovers. But the studies are not conclusive and researchers suggest that the evidence should be evaluated further.

As scientists seek a conclusive answer, tea-lovers begin to grapple with the idea that hotter might not be better after all.

“Food shouldn’t be too hot or too cold. It should be warm,” Saidi Gitau, a Nairobi resident said. (REUTERS)

Rare black leopard caught on camera in Kenya

admin   •   February 14, 2019

Still photograph of ‘Black Leopard’ in Laikipia Wilderness Camp | Will Burrard/Camtraptions LTD via Reuters

A rarely-sighted black leopard has been captured on camera in Kenya by a wildlife photographer who told Reuters it was a “stunning subject to photograph at night”.

The cat is described as ‘black’ because of the higher levels of melanin or dark pigment in its fur, but the characteristic leopard spots can still be seen on the animal’s coat.

Will Burrard-Lucas took the pictures in January 2019, by setting up sensors to detect the animal and then automatically triggered the camera and flash to capture the images, Lucas said.

A San Diego Zoo researcher who was in the area took video of the animal and confirmed the sighting of the creature.

The zoo also said that most observations of the animal had been in Southeast Asia up until this point. — Reuters

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