Kenya’s national disaster operations center and the interior minister say the attack by al-Shabab gunmen on a college campus in northeast Kenya has claimed 147 lives, besides the four attackers who also died. The interior minister said most of those killed Thursday were students but included two police officers, one soldier and two watchmen.
The disaster center said plans are underway to evacuate students and other affected persons.
It was by far the highest death toll in an attack by al-Shabab, an Islamic extremist group from neighboring Somalia, on Kenyan soil.
Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery had earlier given the death toll at 70 but conceded that it could go higher. Police officials who could insisted on anonymity because they are not authorized to speak with the press said the toll could be as high as about 150.
One Kenyan police source said there were 147 dead and another police source said 160. A third source put the death toll at around 80 but said there were so many bodies that he could not do a proper count as night fell with no electrical power to light the scene.
The minister ordered a dusk to dawn curfew in Garissa and in the nearby counties of Wajir, Tana River and Mandera.
Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack. Kenya’s interior ministry says two of the gunmen who attacked a college in northeast Kenya have been killed.
In a statement on Twitter, the ministry said Thursday: “Two terrorists have been neutralised in the ongoing operation. Security agencies intensify rescue operation.”
The man whom Kenyan police say was a possible mastermind of the attack on a college in northeast Kenya is currently in charge of al-Shabab’s external operations against Kenya, according to Kenya’s intelligence service.
Kenyan police have offered a $220,000 bounty for Mohammed Mohamud, who has the aliases Dulyadin and Gamadhere. They believe he is the mastermind of the attack on a college in Garissa, in northeast Kenya. At least 15 have died in Thursday’s attack, which has turned into a hostage situation.
Mohamud was a teacher at a madrassa, or Islamic religious school, for several years. He claimed responsibility for the Nov. 22, 2014, bus attack in Makka, Kenya, in which 28 people were killed.
The death toll now surpasses the 67 who were killed in al-Shabab’s attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in September 2013.
Al Shabaab, which was responsible for a deadly attack in 2013 on the upscale Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, has declared it will punish Kenya for sending troops into Somalia alongside African Union peacekeepers to fight the group.
Terrified students streamed out of buildings, some young men shirtless, as arriving police officers hunkered down, taking cover. The gunmen had opened fire at guards upon arriving, triggering a “fierce shootout” with police guarding student dorms, Kenya’s National Police Service said in a written statement.
Last week al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for a deadly siege on a Mogadishu hotel in which at least 24 people, including six attackers, were killed. That attack lasted more than 12 hours as Somalia’s security forces tried to dislodge gunmen who had taken control of parts of the Maka-al-Mukarramah hotel in the Somali capital.
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross on the Kenyan attacks
For more on this school attack in Kenya, CCTV spoke to Daveed Gartenstein-Ross. He is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.He is also an expert on security, and challenges posed by jihadist organizations.
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross on the Kenyan attacksFor more on this school attack in Kenya, CCTV spoke to Daveed Gartenstein-Ross. He is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.He is also an expert on security, and challenges posed by jihadist organizations.
Browyn Bruton on Al Shabaab
Bronwyn Bruton, Deputy Director for the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council and expert on Al Shabaab and violent extremism discusses the attacks at Garissa University.
Browyn Bruton on Al ShabaabBronwyn Bruton, Deputy Director for the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council and expert on Al Shabaab and violent extremism discusses the attacks at Garissa University.
Kenya’s northern and eastern regions, which are near the Somali border, have suffered many attacks blamed on the al-Qaida-linked Somali group, which has vowed retribution on Kenya for sending troops into Somalia to fight the militants. Kenya sent its troops there in 2011 to fight al-Shabab militants following cross-border attacks.
Last month, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for attacks in the county of Mandera on the Somali border in which twelve people died. Four of them died in an attack on the convoy of Mandera County Governor Ali Roba.
Police statistics show that 312 people have been killed in al-Shabab attacks in Kenya from 2012 to 2014. Thirty-eight people were killed and 149 wounded in Garissa in the same period.
Story compiled with information from CCTV Africa, The Associated Press and Reuters.