al-Shabab gunmen led a rampage on the Garissa University College campus in eastern Kenya Tuesday morning, killing at least 15 people and taking an unknown number of hostages. The National Disaster Operation Center of Kenya told the New York Times that 65 people were admitted to a local hospital, “most with gunshot wounds.”
The al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, with a spokesman for the group telling Agence France-Presse, “Kenya is at war with Somalia...our people are still there, they are fighting and their mission is to kill those who are against the Shabab,”
Kenya’s Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery told reporters Tuesday that at least 280 of the school’s more than 800 students are currently unaccounted for. The BBC reports al-Shabab militants have apparently been dividing captured students into groups, “holding Christians hostage and freeing Muslims.”
Collins Wetangula, the vice chairman of the student union, confirmed to Al Jazeera that the gunmen appeared to be targeting Christians. “If you were a Christian you were shot on the spot,” he said. “With each blast of the gun I thought I was going to die.”
Gunshots were first reported on the campus around 5:30 a.m. local time, when five masked gunmen reportedly stormed the school’s front gate, trading fire with guards before infiltrating the dorms. From Al Jazeera:
Terrified students streamed out of buildings, some young men shirtless, as arriving police officers hunkered down, taking cover, witnesses said. Even as security forces cornered the gunmen in a dormitory where they could be holding hostages, survivors described a harrowing scene, where people were mercilessly gunned down and bullets whistled through the air as they ran for their lives.
“When I looked back I saw them. There were five or six of them. They were masked. And they were shooting live rounds,” Augustine Alanga, an economics student at the school, told the Times. “I was barefoot, and I didn’t have time to wear slippers or shoes. They were shooting at me.”
Update, 1:15 p.m.: According to the New York Times, 70 people were killed in the attack and at least 79 others were injured. Agence France-Presse reports that Kenyan police shot and killed two of the al-Shabab gunmen.