Churches in Kenya protected by armed guards for Easter Sunday as country begins three days of mourning after al-Shabaab attack in Garissa

Militants had singled out Christians for point blank executions during Thursday’s massacre

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The Independent Online

Christians in Kenya have been turning to armed guards to protect their churches during Easter Sunday services, following the massacre at Garissa University College carried out by al-Shabaab that left nearly 150 people dead.

Stories have emerged of how the militants singled out Christians for point blank executions during the attack, and priests in the country, who have been targeted by Islamists in the past, have said they fear Christian churches could become the targets of fresh attacks.

Six armed soldiers shielded the main Christian church in Garissa and around 100 worshippers in preparation for Sunday mass. In 2012, a dozen people killed in simultaneous gun and grenade raids on two churches in the city.

 

Kenya has begun three days of mourning for the victims of Thursday’s brutal terror attack, which saw four masked gunmen from al-Shabaab embark on a shooting rampage at the university in Garissa, hunting down students to kill and take hostage in a day-long siege that left 148 dead.

It is the worst to have been carried out in the country in more than 15 years.

Al-Shabab has already claimed the attack was the first of many to come, promising a violent campaign that will make Kenya’s cities “run red with blood”.

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Cardinal John Njue carries a cross during a Good Friday procession outside the Holy Family Basilica Catholic Church in Kenya's capital Nairobi

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Soldiers guard survivors at a hospital

“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 militant group said in a statement.

But Easter ceremonies in the city of Garissa today saw grieving Christians praying, singing and clapping in remembrance of those who died, while security forces patrolled churches’ perimeters.

At the Our Lady of Consolation Church the ceremony was laden with emotion for the several hundred members of Garissa’s Christian minority, despite fears of further attacks.

“We just keep on praying that God can help us, to comfort us in this difficult time,” Dominick Odhiambo, a worshipper at the congregation told the Associated Press. He said he is planning on abandoning his job as a plumber in Garissa and leaving for his hometown because he is afraid.

“Thank you for coming, so many of you,” Bishop Joseph Alessandro said to the congregation. He said some of those who died in Thursday's attack would have been at the service, and he read condolence messages from around the world.

Alessandro saw a parallel between the ordeal of Jesus Christ, which Easter commemorates, and that of Garissa.

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Survivor Cynthia Cheroitich says she refused to emerge from her hideout even when some of her classmates obeyed the demands of the gunmen (AP)

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A white truck takes away four dead attackers

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The number of attacks on schools and colleges - like the massacre at Garissa this week - has increased so dramatically in the past 10 years that it has become a global terrorist cliché

“We join the sufferings of the relatives and the victims with the sufferings of Jesus,” he said. “The victims will rise again with Christ.”

Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta has vowed to “respond in the severest ways possible” to the Garissa attack during a nationally televised address, promising that “we will fight terrorism to the end”.

“I guarantee that my administration shall respond in the fiercest way possible,” he said.

Five people have been arrested in suspicion of involvement in the Garissa attack, a Kenyan official said, and president Kenyatta promised the “security forces are pursuing the remaining accomplices. We will bring all of them to justice ... We are also in active pursuit of the mastermind [of the Garissa attack] and have placed a reward for his capture.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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