UPDATED: Islamic militant group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for attacking a Kenyan university campus Thursday, where the government has confirmed 147 deaths as the terrorists held students hostage in a dormitory building.
The terrorists stormed Garissa University College in northeastern Kenya and fired indiscriminately in dormitories as students slept around 5:00 a.m. local time. They then asked students whether they were Muslims or Christians.
Students ran outside half-dressed and barefoot as the militants shot at them, according to The New York Times.
Reuters quoted a spokesman for al-Shabab’s military operations, who admitted that “we sorted people out and released the Muslims.” Local news sources cited over 70 wounded. Kenyan government forces reportedly rescued over 500 from the standoff.
The Washington Post quoted a local government spokesman, who said that Kenyan security forces continue to exchange fire with militants, and expressed fears of a “second phase” in the terrorists’ offensive.
A student interviewed by Reuters said that after spotting “strangers” on campus Monday, administrators ordered students to go home on Tuesday. But many remained on campus, where the jihadis found them early Thursday morning.
Al-Jazeera quoted another representative of the al-Qaida-linked group, who said that the hostages were taken in revenge for Kenya’s deployment of troops to Somalia. Al-Shabab has been central to Somalia’s chaotic civil war for years.
The network also quoted Farah Maalim, a Kenyan politician, who said that al-Shabab is “on the death bed. They need to be in the limelight; that is why they are going for these soft targets.”
Al-Shabab most recently attacked civilians at a hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia on March 27. Its last high-profile attack in Kenya was a 2013 raid on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
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