Al-Shabaab gunmen stormed a university campus in Kenya yesterday, in an attack that lasted from dawn until dusk, killing up to 160 people and injuring dozens more.
Using explosives to blast away the main gate, Islamist militants forced their way into the campus of Garissa University College at 5.30am, shooting dead a security guard before storming a hostel. Hundreds of students remained missing last night as four attackers were killed by security forces.
Hundreds awoke in their dormitories to the sounds of gunfire, some dashing naked from their beds and others running headlong in the direction of the gunmen in their terror. Masked militants separated Christian students from Muslims, and then shot them without mercy.
Survivors of the attack described scenes of chaos and carnage. Many students were still asleep, others were taking showers, when the militants stormed their hostels, demanding the occupants say if they were Muslims or Christians.
"If you were a Christian you were shot on the spot. With each blast of the gun I thought I was going to die," said Collins Wetangula, a student.
The attack, the latest in a series of deadly raids in Kenya by the al-Qaeda-linked group, occurred about 90 miles from the Somali border in a region well known for its lack of security. The Somali militant group, which has carried its jihad to Kenya in retaliation for the country's participation in the African Union force in Somalia, claimed responsibility for the attack.
As survivors raised the alarm, Kenyan security forces deployed to the university site, around a mile from the city centre, engaging in a protracted gunfight with the militants, who, according to contradictory reports, numbered between five and 15 men.
The Kenyan government said that some militants took refuge inside a building where they were surrounded by the security forces. The siege was brought to an end late yesterday evening, officials said. During the 2013 Westgate mall attack, in which 67 people were killed, it took security forces four days to bring the siege to an end.
The Interior Minister, Joseph Nkaissery, said that 535 students remained unaccounted for, with efforts under way to track down those missing. Different sources put the death toll at anything from 80 to 160.