Obama vows to stand 'hand in hand' with Kenya after massacre

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Barack Obama called Kenya's leader and vowed to stand "hand-in-hand" with its government and people Friday, as they reel from an Islamist attack that killed 148 university students and security officers.

"Words cannot adequately condemn the terrorist atrocities that took place at Garissa University College, where innocent men and women were brazenly and brutally massacred," Obama said.

Somalia's Shebab Islamists have claimed responsibility for the attack, which was Kenya's deadliest since the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, and the bloodiest ever by the Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants.

Obama will make a long-awaited return to Kenya this July, visiting his father's homeland for the first time since becoming US president.

"I know firsthand the extraordinary resilience and fundamental decency of the people of Kenya. So I know that the people of Garissa and all of Kenya will grieve, but their determination to achieve a better and more secure future will not be deterred," Obama said.

"The future of Kenya will not be defined by violence and terror; it will be shaped by young people like those at Garissa University College," he added.

"This is a message I will relay to the Kenyan people when I visit Kenya in July."

Obama also called Kenyan leader Uhuru Kenyatta to offer his and the First Lady Michelle Obama's condolences.

For much of Obama's time in power, Kenya's President Kenyatta had been under investigation by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Kenyatta was indicted on five counts of crimes against humanity for his alleged role in 2007-08 post-election violence that killed an estimated 1,200 people.

The 53-year-old son of Kenya's founding father protested his innocence until the case was withdrawn in December.

Obama said that "he looks forward to meeting with President Kenyatta again in Nairobi in July," the White House said.

"The two leaders will discuss how to strengthen counterterrorism cooperation and continue to work together to build a safer and more prosperous future for Kenya and the broader region."

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