At least 10 Seventh-day Adventists were among the 148 people slain when four Islamist militants stormed a Kenyan university last week in an attack against Christians, church leaders said Wednesday.
Among the dead is Eric Nyumbuto, leader of the student-led Adventist church on the campus of Garissa University College, a public school in northeastern Kenya.
“Words can’t describe how horrific this event was to experience,” said Philmon Okal, one of the first police officers to respond to the attack and the Sabbath School superintendent at the local Garissa Adventist Church.
“But this attack reminds me that the second coming of Jesus is very near,” Okal said. “We must continue to look for that day when violence, death and destruction will be no more.”
Al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-linked militant group based in neighboring Somalia, has claimed responsibility for the Thursday, April 2, attack. The group, which says it wants to “liberate Muslim lands from occupation,” has staged other attacks against Christians but none as brutal as last week.
Stanley Rotich, a member of the Garrissa Adventist Church, said he was in a nearby building when he heard gunshots. He immediately called Nyumbuto, the Adventist student leader, by cell phone. The conversation abruptly ended when the phone was disconnected.
He later learned of his friend’s death.
Nearly 600 students managed to flee the campus during the hours-long assault, and about 80 were injured, some seriously.
Kenya’s president has promised to bring the attackers to justice and ordered bomb strikes against al-Shabab targets in Somalia. Investigators have detained five suspects on suspicion of supplying weapons to the attackers.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church on Wednesday expressed condolences to the loved ones of those who died and said it mourned with them.
Members of the Garissa church, many of whom were acquainted with the 10 slain students, said they were “heartbroken.”
“We are heartbroken by this senseless loss and solicit your prayers for all of the victims of this terrible tragedy,” the church said in a statement.