Kenyan university massacre survivor emerges after two days in cupboard

Al-Shabaab promises more attacks as student Cynthia Cheroitich leaves college unharmed after being persuaded it was safe to leave her hiding place

Cynthia Cheroitich, 19, a survivor of the attack on Garissa University College who was found on Saturday, two days after the attack. Photograph: Andrew Njuguna/AP

A survivor of Thursday’s attack on a Kenyan university by the Somali-based Islamic extremists al-Shabaab has been found safe and well after hiding for two days in a cupboard.

The attack at the Garissa University College left 148 people dead, with the death toll expected to rise.

But student Cynthia Cheroitich, 19, escaped the massacre after finding refuge as gunmen strapped with explosives stalked classrooms and corridors.

She told the Associated Press that as the attack by four heavily armed members of al-Shabaab began, she climbed into a clothing storage cupboard and covered herself in garments.

She remained hidden there while other classmates came out from similar hiding places as the gunmen continued the attack.

She was rescued 48 hours later, according to Kenyan officials, after a teacher was brought in by security forces to persuade her it was safe to come out. Cheroitich said she originally did not believe her rescuers had come to help her, suspecting they were militants.

“How do I know that you are the Kenyan police?” she said she asked them.

“I was just praying to my God,” Cheroitich, a Christian, said of her ordeal.

The Press Association added she was tired and thirsty, but was otherwise in good health.

Meanwhile, four other people have been found alive at the campus, 120 miles from the Somalian border, while two men have been arrested as suspects. Interior minister Joseph Nkaissery said police were now interviewing five suspects, having arrested three others on Friday.

Al-Shabaab was also accused of masterminding the 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Naroibi, which led to the deaths of 67 people.

The university atrocity is the worst in terms of lives lost since 1998, when the east African country saw its US embassy bombed by al-Qaida, an attack that killed more than 200 people.

Later the same day, al-Shabaab warned of more attacks in Kenya like the assault on Garissa University College that killed 148 people.

“Kenyan cities will run red with blood,” said a spokesman, according to the Site intelligence monitoring group.

The Islamic militants said the attack on Garissa was in retaliation for killings carried out by Kenyan troops fighting the rebels in Somalia: “No amount of precaution or safety measures will be able to guarantee your safety, thwart another attack or prevent another bloodbath.”

Following the extremists’ threats, the Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, vowed to take harsh action.

In a nationally televised address, Kenyatta said his administration “shall respond in the severest ways possible” to the Garissa attack.

“We will fight terrorism to the end,” he said. “I guarantee that my administration shall respond in the fiercest way possible.”

Global Radio Network

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