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Shabab Gunmen Are Said to Mount Deadly Attack on University in Kenya – New York Times

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Student Describes Attack at Kenya School

Student Describes Attack at Kenya School

A student who escaped an attack by gunmen on a Kenyan university described the scene on Thursday.

By Citizen TV on Publish Date April 2, 2015. Photo by -/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images.

NAIROBI, Kenya — Gunmen attacked a university campus in eastern Kenya early Thursday, clashing with guards, forcing their way into dormitories and taking hostages, the police said.

Officials did not say how many people were killed, but local news media reports put the figure at 14 or more.

Hours after the attack began, security forces were still battling to retake control of Garissa University College, and students remained trapped in college buildings, witnesses and officials said.

“There are gunman mounted on top of one of the dormitory buildings,” said Abdikadir Sugow, the spokesman for the Garissa county government. He said the gunmen could be seen wearing “combat gear,” including what appeared to be “either bulletproof vests or suicide bomb vests.”

The authorities did not immediately identify the assailants, but the United States Embassy in Nairobi issued a statement saying that “Al Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack,” referring to the East African extremist group whose attack on a Nairobi shopping mall killed 67 people in 2013.

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Police officers outside Garissa University College on Thursday in eastern Kenya. Credit Associated Press

The Kenyan National Disaster Operation Center said that 65 people had been hospitalized in Garissa, most of them with gunshot wounds, and that four critically wounded people had been airlifted to Nairobi, the capital, for treatment. The Interior Ministry said one suspect had been arrested as he tried to flee the scene.

President Uhuru Kenyatta issued a statement extending condolences to the families of victims and saying that he and his government “continue to pray for the quick recovery of the injured, and the safe rescue of those held hostage.”

Mr. Sugow, the county spokesman, said the college “hosts students from all over Kenya, of different religious and ethnic backgrounds,” which may help explain why it was made a target.

Augustine Alanga, 21, an economics student at the college, said he had been asleep in his dormitory when the shooting began. Startled and afraid, he said, he bolted from his room without stopping to put on his shoes, and got cuts on his feet as he sprinted barefoot across the campus and into a nearby forest.

“When I looked back, I saw them,” Mr. Alanga recalled. “There were five or six of them. They were masked. And they were shooting live rounds.”

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Students took shelter in a vehicle after gunmen attacked the Garissa University College. Credit Associated Press

The attack began about 5:30 a.m., when the gunmen forced their way onto the campus by firing at guards at the main gate, according to a statement issued by the office of the inspector general of the National Police Service in Nairobi.

“Police officers who were at the time guarding the students’ hostels heard the gunshots and responded swiftly, and engaged the gunmen in a fierce shootout; however, the attackers retreated and gained entry into the hostels,” the statement said. “Security agencies arrived and are currently engaged in an elaborate process of flushing out the gunmen.”

The police surrounded and sealed off the campus, and by 11 a.m., three of the college’s four student dormitories had been evacuated, while “the attackers have been cornered in one hostel,” the Interior Ministry said on Twitter.

“It is ongoing,” Abbas Gullet, secretary general of the Kenyan Red Cross, said by telephone. “There are students that are being held against their will by these terrorists in the dormitories.”

Recent security warnings have emphasized a risk of attack by the Shabab, a radical Islamist militant group based in Somalia that the Kenyan government has been battling for years, including a military incursion into Somalia that began in 2011. Garissa is about 90 miles from the Somali border.

In March, the embassies of Australia, the United States and Britain issued security alerts about possible terrorist attacks.

“Potential targets for attacks could include hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, shopping malls, diplomatic missions, transportation hubs, religious institutions, government offices, or public transportation,” the United States Embassy warned after the reported death of Adan Garar, a Shabab leader, in March.

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