New accounts are emerging of the rescue mission from the Garissa University College terrorist attack that rekindles rivalry between police and the military.
Speaking off the record, Kenya Defence Force sources are angry that all the credit is going to the Kenya Police GSU Recce Unit for ending the siege and killing the terrorists; yet their own men were on the verge of completing the mission before the police squad flew in from Nairobi.
A military source told the Nation that Special Forces from the Kenya Defence Force had already rescued most of the students and cornered the terrorists before being asked to give way to the GSU unit.
For the first time since the terrorist attack last week, the officer revealed that the Special Forces, the elite team of the military, was flown in to reinforce their infantry colleagues from the nearby barracks who were among the first to respond.
The officer disclosed that reports making light of KDFâ€™s contribution and glorifying the GSU had angered military personnel across the rank and file.
According to the officer, the assertions are unfair and unfounded.
The rivalry between the police and military and police goes back to the Westgate attack. A Recce unit that had cornered the terrorists in the mall was ordered to stand down as the KDFâ€™s Special Forces moved in.
In the confusion, the two units exchanged fire, resulting in the death of the Recce unit commanding officer as well as a sizeable number of Special Forces troopers.
From Garissa, the military man said their soldiers rescued over 500 students before the Recce team was brought in.
But the Nation has seen a contradictory police signal reporting that the Recce team rescued 615 students and 50 members of staff who were being held hostage by the terrorists.
DID NOT RESCUE HOSTAGES
Independent investigations by Nation reporters from the time the siege unfolded, confirmed by senior police sources, indicate that the Recce unit did not actually rescue any hostages because all of them had been slain by the time they arrived.
The officer gave the military view of the scenario that day. According to what might be taken as the KDF version, soldiers from the nearby Garissa Barracks arrived at the scene within 30 minutes to reinforce â€œoverwhelmedâ€ police officers.
He described the response as â€œquickâ€.
The barracks hosts infantry and artillery units.
The first unit to respond reported that police officers guarding the institution had been shot, one of them fatally.
The attackers then entered the campus and switched off electricity at the main controls.
The initial troops engaged the terrorists in a fierce exchange of fire near the hostels, stopping them from hunting down and herding students together for eventual execution.
The military intervention allowed more than 500 captured students to escape.
A separate source told the Nation that a number of Special Forces who were training in Lamu were flown to Garissa. Some were injuredÂ and are being treated at a Mombasa hospital.
He did not give the timelines of the SF arrivals and departure.
According to the account, the KDF Special Forces managed to push the terrorists into one building and contained them there as they prepared to storm in.
At that point, the terrorists changed tactics and halted their continuous machinegun fire, adopting sniper techniques and on several occasions hurling grenades at the troops.
At that point, a decision was made to bring in the tanks to give cover to the advancing soldiers while they stormed the building.
A soldier was killed while five others were injured in the confrontation. Recce lost a corporal and six others were injured.
According to the officer, the Special Forces had pushed the terrorists to the fourth floor of the building by the time the Recce commandos arrived.
On their arrival in the late afternoon, the military was asked to stand down and secure the grounds and perimeter, while the fresh arrivals stormed the building to complete the mission.
â€œKDF did all the work but did not take the credit. The Recce team came in fresh just to kill four fellows. This happened in the evening after the students had been rescued,â€ he complained.