The Slatest

A Gunman in Kenya Massacre Was the Son of Government Official

Members of the Red Cross help a woman overcome with grief after learning that a relative was killed in the massacre at Garissa University.  

Photo by Nichole Sobecki/AFP/Getty Images

One of the gunmen who murdered 148 people at a university in Kenya had been a Kenyan law school graduate known for his straight-A’s and his influential father, who is a government official. More specifically, Mohammed Abdirahim Abdullahi’s father is a “chief” in Madera, a town near the Somali border. As the Guardian explains, “chiefs are officials retained by the national authorities to solve disputes at local level and their remit includes identifying criminals.”

The 24-year-old “will likely go down in history as the mass murderer with the most innocent face,” notes Kenya’s the Daily Nation. Known as Ababmo by his classmates, he was known for his good grades as much as for his tailored suits. “But below the nice suits and the veneer of normality was a cauldron of hatred and religious fanaticism which culminated in mass murder last week,” adds the paper.

Blogger Yassin Juma says that it was well known when he disappeared that Abdirahim had gone to join al-Shabab after his initial plan to join ISIS failed because “he had no passport.” A relative who spoke to Kenya’s Standard claims Abdullahi went missing shortly after receiving his law degree and his family reported his disappearance immediately. The Guardian managed to speak briefly to his father before he was rushed to the hospital, apparently overwhelmed by the reports of his son’s involvement in the massacre. “This is a young man who disappeared in 2013 and I have not heard from him since,” Abdullahi Mohammed said. “If it is true and it is confirmed that he was one of them, then he deserves the most painful death. This is so inhuman what they did to the innocent students. It is so wrong.”

A government official confirmed Abdullahi’s family was trying to help authorities locate him. “The father had reported to security agents that his son had disappeared from home… and was helping the police try to trace his son by the time the Garissa terror attack happened,” Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka told Reuters.

The involvement of a well-educated Kenyan in the attack served as a shocking reminder of just how successful Islamic extremists have been in recruiting young people across the country. “The news that one of the gunmen was Kenyan highlights the challenges faced by the government in preventing terrorist attacks,” notes the Associated Press. “The danger comes not only from neighboring Somalia but also from within Kenya.”

The government also identified Mohamed Mohamud as the mastermind of the attack. He is Kenyan and has three wives, reports CNN.