147 killed, 79 injured as al-Shabab gunmen attack Kenyan university

An injured university student is helped by paramedics

The number of people killed after gunmen from the Islamist militant group al-Shabab stormed a university in Kenya today has risen to 147.

Officials said most of the dead were students and that another 79 other people had been injured – they were among 587 students rescued at Garissa University College. Nine of the injured were critical and have been airlifted to the capital Nairobi for emergency treatment.

Interior Minster Joseph Nkaiserry said all four attackers were killed during the operation to save students at the school, which is only 90 miles from the border with Somalia. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility and told the BBC that it had released Muslims and kept Christians as hostages. Student Collins Wetangula said: “If you were a Christian you were shot on the spot. With each blast of the gun I thought I was going to die.”

Earlier, police said university guards had a “fierce shootout” with the attackers. Two guards and two police officers are among the dead. Witnesses said the masked gunmen shot indiscriminately at people and a doctor said the injured had gunshot and shrapnel wounds.

Students leave the university after escaping the gunmen

A police statement said: “Armed attackers forced their way into Garissa University by shooting at the guards manning the main gate at around 5.30am.

“The attackers shot indiscriminately while inside the university compound. 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.”

The gunmen attacked as many students were in classrooms preparing for exams. Student Augustine Alanga said: “It was horrible, there was shooting everywhere.”

Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, said: “Gunman from the militant group al-Shabab must be sent a message that attacks on schools, colleges and universities are a crimes against humanity and that educational establishments are designed as safe havens​, deserving protection in exactly the same way in the Geneva Conventions as Red Cross hospitals.

Security forces take up positions during the rescue operation

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the staff, students, family and people of Kenya impacted by today’s heinous attack. This comes a year after Boko Haram kidnapped over 200 school girls in Chibok, Nigeria, a similar incursion in Pakistan where several months ago 120 students were killed and in South Sudan where children are being abducted from schools to serve as child soldiers.

“I have been working closely with the Ms. Leila Zerrougui the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to ensure all attacks on schools and education are documented and reported to the Security Council. There have been more than 10,000 attacks on schools ​and educational establishments ​during the past five years.

“This is unacceptable and individuals and armed groups using schools as theaters of violence must be brought to justice. We must support the Security Council ​in using all means at its disposal to put an end to these attacks on ​education.

Al-Shabab, which has links to al-Qaeda and is fighting to create a regional Islamic state, was responsible for the attack on the Westgate shopping centre in the Kenyan capital in Nairobi in 2013 when 67 people died. Garissa University College opened in 2011 and has about 800 students from across Kenya. It is the only higher education establishment in the region.