Is The Garissa University Attack In Kenya Terrorism? The Country Has Been A Target Before

At around 5:30 a.m. local time, gunmen stormed the Kenyan college campus and "shot indiscriminately" at students, authorities said on Thursday. At least 30 people were hospitalized, most from gunshot wounds and some with serious injuries, according to Kenya Red Cross. But is the Garissa University attack in Kenya terrorism? No group has claimed responsibility as of Thursday midday, but the country has been a target before by militants hailing from nearby Somalia. Update: BBC and CNN report that Al Shabab has claimed responsibility for the Garissa attack. Officials have confirmed that 147 people have been killed and dozens more wounded.

In 2011, Kenya's government sent troops into Somalia to fight Al Shabab, which had launched multiple attacks on Kenyan tourist spots. The extremist group is attempting to build an Islamic state in Somalia, which sits at Kenya's eastern border. The invasion was viewed as surprising at the time because Kenya had been known to be non-interventionist in its foreign policy, according to The Economist. The conflict has since escalated as Kenyan forces have been unable to stop Al Shabab both in Somalia and at home. Al Shabab has not only made repeated threats against Kenya, it has carried them out and often with deadly results.

In September 2013, the militants claimed responsibility for an attack against the Westgate shopping mall in the capital city of Nairobi, an attack that left 67 people dead. In December, Al Shabab attacked a Kenyan quarry near the Somali border, killing at least 36 people who were believed to be non-Muslims. The attack, they said, was to retaliate against Kenyan forces that had raided Somali Muslim mosques to find extremists. Al Shabab was also behind suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda, in July 2010, which killed more than 70 people who were watching the final World Cup soccer match. The Wall Street Journal reports that police statistics show that from 2012 to 2014, more than 300 people have been killed in Al Shabab attacks in Kenya.

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Al Shabab has been linked to other extremist organizations such as al Qaeda. In February 2012, Al Shabab and al Qaeda announced an alliance in a video that called for the end of the United States. Since designating Al Shabab as a terrorist group in 2008, the United States has supported U.N.-backed African troops fighting the militants and has donated millions of dollars in aid.

Again, no one has claimed responsibility for the shooting at Garissa University so far. But Al Shabab has threatened and hurt Kenya before. Given the turbulent history between Kenya and Al Shabab, if the militant group wasn't responsible for Thursday's horrific attack on Kenyan students in Garissa, chances are they will hit again.

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