NAIROBI – At least 147 people were killed and 79 others were wounded on Thursday in an attack launched by Somali jihadist group Al-Shabab on Garissa University, near the Somali border in northeastern Kenya, the Kenyan government said.
The National Disaster Operation Center said that, after 16 hours of clashes, the army had ended its assault operation at the university campus where a group of terrorists had holed up in one of the student residence halls with a number of hostages.
Interior Minister Joseph Nkaiserry announced that four Al Shabab terrorists died in the crossfire while a fifth was said to have been arrested when he tried to flee at mid-afternoon.
According to NDOC officials, 79 people were wounded in the attack, but due to the seriousness of some of their injuries the death toll could rise still further.
The government says that Mohammed Kuno, a former professor at Garissa, is the mastermind behind the attack and it offered a reward of 20 million chelines (about $218,000) for information leading to his arrest.
The attack did not surprise residents of the area, given that in recent days there have been alerts issued that Al Shabab could be planning a new massacre.
Earlier on Thursday, Kenyan defense forces and police mounted a joint effort to deal with the situation and they were able to evacuate three of the four student dormitories on campus, saving some 600 students’ lives, while the attackers entrenched themselves in the remaining hall with an unknown number of hostages, the Interior Ministry said.
The attack started early Thursday morning when the terrorists entered the campus and began firing indiscriminately and detonating explosive devices.
Police General Inspector Joseph Boinnet said in a statement that there had also been a shootout between attackers and police guarding the student residences.
Al-Shabab has in the past organized multiple attacks on border cities like Garissa, located about 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Somalia.