Abdirahim Abdullahi, a university graduate and the son of a chief in the northern town of Mandera, was among at least four people who took part in the April 2 raid, Mwenda Njoka, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said by phone Sunday from the capital, Nairobi. Abdullahi’s family reported him missing a year ago, suspecting he had joined al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-linked militant group, and was working with police to trace him.
“This is an example of what parents can do in the fight against terrorism,” Njoka said on Sunday. “The father reported to us the moment he thought his son was lured into terrorism. Parents are able to detect such, but most of them never come forward with information on suspicious activity of their children.”
Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the pre-dawn attack on Garissa University College that also left at least 78 people injured, the latest in a series of assaults on Kenya over its 2011 deployment of troops to fight the militants in neighboring Somalia. It was the deadliest raid since al-Qaeda bombed the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi in 1998, killing more than 200 people.
On Saturday, al-Shabaab warned of more violence. “Our message to you will be written not with words, but with the blood of your people,” al-Shabaab said in a statement on Saturday published on the Calamada website. “Dig their graves and prepare their coffins from now.”
Five people have been arrested in connection with the attack, four of them while they were trying to cross the Somali border, according to the Interior Ministry. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice and said the security forces are pursuing leads on other accomplices in the attack.
Al-Shabaab has waged an insurgency in Somalia since 2006 in a bid to impose Islamic law. Kenya deployed troops there in 2011 following attacks on tourists and aid workers. The group responded by intensifying attacks on sites including bars, churches. In 2013, an assault on Nairobi’s upmarket Westgate shopping mall left 67 dead.
The government offered a $220,000 reward for the capture of Mohammed Mohamud Kuno, a suspected member of al-Shabaab who the authorities say helped organize the Garissa attack.
Authorities have evidence Kuno was “highly involved” in at least two other attacks in Kenya last year, Njoka said. A Kenyan national and former teacher, Kuno was a commander for the militants in the Jubaland region of Somalia, he said.
The identification of Abdullahi comes after Kenyatta on Saturday appealed to families, religious and community leaders to help end the radicalization of the country’s youth by cooperating and providing information to the authorities.
Abdullahi was “in his early twenties,” Njoka said. “He was a good and educated young man who completed university in 2013, but was lured into terrorism.