Family members have lined up at a morgue in Kenya’s capital Nairobi to identify the bodies of loved ones they believe were among the 148 killed in the attack on the Garissa University College campus last week.
As relatives queued on Sunday, Kenya’s interior ministry announced that it has identified one of the al-Shabab gunmen who massacred students at the northeastern university on Thursday as the son of a government official.
In Nairobi, the Felix family were among many lined up at a mortuary, trying to find 20-year-old Veronica, a student at the university who has been missing since the attack.
Her mother Florence found her body – one of dozens lined up on the floor.
“Those children died a very painful death. I can’t even identify my own child from her face,” she told Al Jazeera.
“She has wounds on her skin all over her body. Her skin has burned, she has no hair. I just identified her with her folded toe and the scar on her thigh.”
Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb, reporting from Nairobi, said the ordeal for families like the Felixes was only just beginning, with post-mortems to be carried out before victims’ bodies can be released and funerals can be arranged.
“The people coming out are extremely distressed. The process of identifying the bodies is very traumatic. What I saw when I was in there was definitely the worst thing I have ever seen,” Webb said, after going inside the mortuary.
Mwenda Njoka, an interior ministry spokesman, said on Sunday that Abdirahim Abdullahi was among four gunmen who attacked the Garissa University College campus.
After besieging the university, the al-Shabab gunmen lined up non-Muslim students before executing them in the armed group’s bloodiest attack to date.
“The father had reported to security agents that his son had disappeared from home … and was helping the police try to trace his son by the time the Garissa terror attack happened,” Njoka told the Reuters news agency in a text message.
The Kenya Today website identified Abdullahi as the son of Abdullahi Daqara, the Chief of Bulla Jamhuri in Mandera county. It described Abdullahi as a former gifted law graduate who had studied at the University of Nairobi.
As Kenya began three days of national mourning and dedicated Easter prayer services to the victims of the attack, reports emerged that Kenyan special forces were not deployed to the site of the attack, near the border with Somalia, for at least seven hours.
Kenya’s major Nation newspaper said it took until just before 2pm for the main response team to reach the scene, despite alarm bells going off in Nairobi as soon as the first reports of the pre-dawn attack emerged.
Njoka dismissed the criticism. “If you look at how we responded it was not bad at all, say, compared to Westgate,” he told the Nation.
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday pledged that the attackers would face justice for the “mindless slaughter” and vowed to retaliate for the killings in the “severest way”.
Five men have been arrested in connection with the attack.