Bloomberg – Kenyan authorities said they secured a university campus in eastern Kenya and were trying to drive out suspected Islamist militants who killed at least 14 people and wounded dozens when they stormed the facility.
Heavily armed assailants forced their way into Garissa University at about 5:30 a.m. on Thursday and gained entry into student hostels after firing at guards manning the main gate, police Inspector General Joseph Boinett said in an e-mailed statement. The campus is located in the town of Garissa, about 228 miles east of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, and 90 miles from the border with Somalia, home of the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab militant group.
One student who fled, Njeri Maina, said three assailants entered the university’s main accommodation building carrying assault rifles and grenades. They shouted in Arabic, then Swahili, telling everybody to lie down before they opened fire, she said by phone.
“I managed to lock myself in a nearby toilet and leave the building through the back entrance after security forces started engaging the attackers,” Maina said.
Attacks in Kenya soared after the government in 2011 sent troops into Somalia to fight al-Shabaab following a wave of kidnappings and the murder of a British tourist in Kenya that the government blamed on the group.
Kenya’s state-run National Disaster Operation Centre said on its Twitter account that two people were killed, while Kenya Red Cross said 30 people had been taken to hospital, four of them in serious condition. Police didn’t give casualty numbers.
Students remain in the building and security forces and Kenyan troops are exchanging gunfire with the assailants, who authorities suspect belong to the al-Shabaab militant group, county police commander Charles Kinyua said by phone. Kenya’s Interior Ministry said on its Twitter account that police were flushing out the gunmen.
Al-Shabaab has waged an insurgency in Somalia since 2006 in a bid to impose Islamic law. In September 2013, the Islamist militia claimed responsibility for an attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi that left 67 people dead and the country has faced bombings of bars, churches, and markets.
Local police chief Kinyua said that the militants may have chosen the university as a way of targeting Kenyans who come from outside the area.