KENYA – At least 15 people were killed while more than 500 students remained unaccounted for after militants from the Somali terror group Al-Shabaab attacked Garissa University College in Kenya early Thursday, authorities said.
The gunmen killed students and police officers and are holding hostages, a militant spokesman and aid officials confirmed. The situation was continuing, authorities said.
“The attackers shot the students and university staff indiscriminately. We are in heavy operation as the attackers are still holding their position in the students’ hostel at the university,” according to a statement from Kenyan Police Inspector-General Joseph Boinnet.
Authorities said the heavily armed masked gunmen entered student residences at around 5:30 in the morning and then started shooting.
Authorities said three of four dorms inside the Garissa University College have been evacuated and the five heavily armed gunmen are reported cornered in one dorm.
Fierce gunfight between the attackers and the police was ongoing and residents said they heard heavy gunfire and explosions inside the university.
Kenya Red Cross secretary-general Abbas Gullet said the heavily armed men were holding stages. Some 65 people had been injured and authorities said about 500 students have not been accounted for.
Al-Shabaab, an Islamist group based in southern Somalia, claimed responsibility for the attack.
“Our Mujahideen [militant] brothers today managed to carry out a successful operation in Garissa town,” said Sheikh Abdiasis abu Musab, a spokesman for al-Shabaab.
Musab said the militant group was still control of the university.
In a statement, Musab said the attack was in response to Kenya’s military presence in Somalia.
“We told the Kenyans to withdraw their army from Somalia,” the al-Shabaab spokesman said. “They did not want to listen us, so this is our message to them.”
Al-Shabaab has been designated as a terrorist organization by Australia, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. As of June 2012, the US State Department has open bounties on several of the group’s senior commanders. – BusinessNewsAsia.com