21 Dead, Almost 600 Held Hostage in Kenya Attack

21 Dead, Almost 600 Held Hostage in Kenya Attack

A terror group known as Al-Shabaab is claiming responsibility for an attack on Garissa University College

Armed gunmen entered a northern Kenya university taking nearly 600 students and staff members hostage. According to reports, at least 21 were killed and another 65 were seriously wounded.

The Somali-based al-Shabab terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Heavy gunfire was reported at the Garissa University campus as the Kenyan military tried to end the siege.

Police Inspector-General Joseph Boinett said there was a shootout between the attackers and police officers. "We have the reports that the attackers shot aimlessly while inside the university compound," he said.

"Most of us were asleep when the incident happened," said Nicholas Ntulu, a student at the university. "We heard heavy gunfire and explosions. Every person ran for dear life as we passed the gunmen. Several (students) were shot dead. I only saw three gunmen heading to the hostels.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has ordered the inspector-general of police to accelerate the applications of 10,000 recruits for the Kenya Police College.

"We have suffered unnecessarily due to shortage of security personnel," he said. "Kenya badly needs additional officers, and I will not keep the nation waiting."

The assault comes in the wake of an intelligence report issued last week by security officials warning that al-Shabab was planning an attack on major institutions in retaliation for Kenyan military action in Somalia as part of an African Union initiative against the group.

Al-Shabab has carried out several attacks in Garissa and across Kenya in the past few years, including the 2013 attack at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi that left 67 people dead, and others on mosques in Mombasa, a coastal city in the east.

Nairobi-based security analyst Abdiwahab Sheikh said the incident highlights how the government has failed to shore up security in the country.

"The government has not learned anything from the Westgate attack," he said. "How do you allow terrorists to take students hostage for more 10 hours? I think our security forces need to learn from the past."

About the Author

Matt Holden is an Associate Content Editor for 1105 Media, Inc. He received his MFA and BA in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. He currently writes and edits for Occupational Health & Safety magazine, and Security Today.

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