Nairobi: At least 15 people were killed and over 60 injured by armed assailants who forced their way into a university in northeastern Kenya and opened fire at students early Thursday even as authorities said 280 students were rescued while 535 still remained unaccounted for.
Kenya Red Cross officials said at least 56 people, including two policemen, were injured during the attack at the Garissa University College, Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation reported.
The two policemen and a civilian have been airlifted to Nairobi for treatment.
Somalia-based Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack, as per media reports. "We have killed many people and Kenyans will be shocked when they get inside," they said in their radio station.
The attack started at dawn from the mosque inside the campus where the attackers shot at worshipers indiscriminately.
Students who escaped the gunfire said there were at least five attackers. Many other students and teachers were still being held hostage.
There are fears of mass casualties as gunmen are still holed up in the compound, Kenya's National Disaster Operations Centre said in an earlier report.
Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet said there was a shootout between attackers and police officers who were guarding the students' hostels.
"The attackers shot indiscriminately while inside the university compound."
"However, the attackers retreated and gained entry into the hostel... a joint force composed of National Police Service Commission (NPS) officers and other security agencies arrived and are engaged in an elaborative process of flushing out the gunmen from the hostels," he said in a statement posted on his Twitter account.
Kenya Defence Force (KDF) and police have entered the university's compound.
Local security officials said there had been threats on the institutions there from terror groups. "We had the threats earlier and had alerted the institutions here," a security official said.