The four gunmen who slaughtered 147 students at Garissa University College spent the night before in a popular Garissa hotel associated with a powerful county politician.
This revelation and other details are emerging about how the heavily armed attackers managed to make their way from Somalia into Kenya.
It was not known whether the hotel management was aware of the identity of the men who spent the night and left early Thursday to carry out the terror attack around 5.30am Thursday. More than 70 people were wounded.
Al Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack.
All four were Kenyans, according to government intelligence sources. They were killed during the attack. A fifth gunman reportedly was arrested as he fled.
Sources tell the Star the terrorists are believed to have entered Kenya some weeks ago through Lag Badana Bushbush National Park at the lower tip of the border Somalia shares with Kenya some weeks ago.
It is commonly believed that attackers enter through the easiest access point near Dadaab refugee camp. The Ifo border crossing in Dadaab has always been an entry point for aliens,
Entry through the distant National Park, 419 kilometres from Garissa town, is a significant departure from the norm.
The park is near the Lower Juba region of Somalia and the border area is loosely manned by security from the weak administration of Ahmed Mohamed Islam Madobe, president of Jubaland.
Kenya has continuously supported his administration in an attempt to create a buffer zone against al Shabaab.
The park also borders Lamu county’s Boni Forest, which security agents say is a home to Somali militants.
Local and international police are trying to unravel the mystery of how assailants with with such lethal weapons penetrated into Kenya.
Intelligence sources said the attack on Garissa was â€œthe last resortâ€ for the terrorists.
â€œThey believed there would be some unwanted casualties but they were also looking for maximum casualties,â€ said an intelligence officer who this information had been given to police in the area.
“Unwanted casualtiesâ€ refers to Garissa county locals, Muslims whom the group has said are not targeted.
The attackers carried four suicide vests, 12 hand grenades and four AK47 rifles.
In planning the attack weeks in advance, they had extensively surveyed the university and surrounding area.
The terrorists had attended lectures inside the campus mosque, posing as worshippers, and familiarising themselves with the campus.
A warning of an imminent attack was posted on the campus gate on April 1, presumably by the attackers, but many people dismissed this as an April Fool’s Day prank.
Two Toyota Probox vehicles had been purchased in Nairobi and Garissa to be used in the attacks, intelligence sources said. They dropped the attackers at the loosely manned campus gate before speeding off, witnesses said.
Mastermind Mohamed Kuno, also known as Gamadhere, was not among the attackers.
American security involved?
It has also emerged that American security personnel and officers from the Central Intelligence Agency have been actively involved in dealing with the Garissa terror attack and helping Kenyan investigators. The American team has been in Kenya to prepare for the visit of President Barack Obama.
“The United States is providing assistance to the Kenyan Government, and we will continue to partner with them as well as with others in the region to take on the terrorist group al Shabaab,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on Thursday night.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement: “The attack once again reinforces the need for all countries and communities to unite in the effort to combat violent extremism.”
The Star has established the US security team has been in the country since late last year when White House began considering Obama’s visit.
The team has been mapping the country, especially Nairobi, to come up with a security plan for the President’s visit in July for the US-African Leaders’ Summit.
US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec told the Star on Tuesday that security, especially the war against al Shabaab, will be among the issues President Uhuru Kenyatta and President Obama will discuss in bilateral meetings.
Godec also said the American team has been working with Kenyan forces “dealing with insecurity, especially border control.”
“Security poses a continuous challenge in Kenya. The Government of Kenya is making a strong effort in dealing with insecurity and we as the US are there to assist,” Godec told the Star at the American Embassy.