BREAKING: Islamist gunmen dead after attack at Kenya college kills 147

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BREAKING NEWS: 2:55p.m. ET

A total of 147 people have been killed in the attack on Garissa University, according to the official Twitter account of Kenya's National Disaster Operation and Kenyan media reports. The agency also reports on its Twitter account that plans are underway to evacuate the remaining students and those affected from the area.

Update, posted at 2:33p.m. ET

Authorities have killed all of the four terrorists who held hostage and killed university students Thursday, Kenyan Interior Ministry Joseph Nkaissery said.

The "operation has ended successfully" at Garissa University, he said. "It is a very sad day for Kenya."

The sun hadn't risen when the terror began. A few students were still in their beds. A few had woken up to head to early morning Christian prayers.

Latest developments:

• 2:05 p.m.: Police declared a curfew in the region from 6:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. for the coming days after a terror attack Thursday on Garissa University College in Kenya.

•12:09 p.m.: Seventy people were killed and 79 others were wounded in the Al-Shabaab attack on the university, the Kenya National Disaster Operation Center said Thursday. More than 500 students have been rescued, the center added. The school has 815 students. All staff has been accounted for, officials said.

Full story: 

Islamist gunmen burst into a Kenyan university before dawn Thursday, shooting students and taking hostages in a terror attack that left 70 dead, Kenyan officials said.

Two attackers were killed in the ongoing security operation, and one was arrested, authorities said.

The Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militant group claimed responsibility for the assault.

More than 500 of the 815 students are accounted for at Garissa University College, the Kenya National Disaster Operation Center said. Staff members are accounted for as well, the center said.

While the death toll could change, the figure suggests the attack was deadlier than an Al-Shabaab attack on the Westgate shopping center in Nairobi in September 2013, which left 67 victims dead.

There are usually four guards at the campus gates overnight, Jackstone Kweyu, dean of students, told Kenya's Citizen TV.

The attackers cornered a building in which 360 students live, but some of the students escaped, Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery said.

Kenyan forces cleared three of four dormitories and had cornered the militants in the last one, the Interior Ministry said Thursday.

"This is a moment for everyone throughout the country to be vigilant as we continue to confront and defeat our enemies," Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said.

Police declared a curfew in the region from 6:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. for the coming days.

Witness: Gunmen shot non-Muslims

Joel Ayora, who was on the campus and witnessed the attack, said gunmen burst into a Christian service. Taking hostages from the service, they then "proceeded to the hostels, shooting anybody they came across except their fellows, the Muslims."

The attackers separated students by religion, allowing Muslims to leave and keeping an unknown number of Christians hostage, Agence France-Presse reported.

"We were sleeping when we heard a loud explosion that was followed by gunshots and everyone started running for safety," student Japhet Mwala told AFP.

"There are those who were not able to leave the hostels where the gunmen headed and started firing. I am lucky to be alive because I jumped through the fence with other students."

For hours after the attack began, heavy gunfire and explosions continued, said Dennis Okari of CNN affiliate NTV.

Okari said he was told to take cover as hundreds of students fled, some crawling.

Photo of wanted man released

The ministry posted a "Most Wanted" notice for a man in connection with the attack. The notice offers a reward of 20 million Kenyan shillings, which is about $215,000.

The name listed is Mohamed Mohamud, who also goes by the aliases Dulyadin and Gamadhere. "We appeal to anyone with any info on #Gamadhere to share with relevant authorities and security agencies," the Interior Ministry posted on Twitter.

The post does not say what role the man may have played in the attack, if any.

It includes the words "Kaa Chonjo," which means to be on the lookout.

President: Kenya suffering from police shortage

Garissa is about 145 kilometers (90 miles) from the border with Somalia. Al-Shabaab militants have often launched attacks inside Kenya ever since the Kenyan government sent troops across the border to fight the group.

Kenyatta called on the inspector-general of police "to take urgent steps" to ensure that 10,000 recruits whose enrollment is pending "promptly report for training at the Kenya Police College, Kiganjo. I take full responsibility for this directive. We have suffered unnecessarily due to shortage of security personnel. Kenya badly needs additional officers, and I will not keep the nation waiting."

The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi condemned the attack.

Garissa University College was established in 2011 and is the only public university in the region.

The Kenyan Red Cross and the country's health ministry are organizing a blood drive to help the victims.

Al-Shabaab's carnage in Kenya

The dangerously porous border between Somalia and Kenya has made it easy for Al-Shabaab militants to cross over and carry out attacks.

In a December attack on a quarry, Al-Shabaab militants separated Muslims and executed the non-Muslims, a spokesman for the group said.

Last month, the U.S. Embassy warned of possible attacks "throughout Kenya in the near-term" following the reported death of a key al-Shabaab leader, Adan Garaar.

"Although there is no information about a specific location in Kenya for an attack, U.S. citizens are reminded that the potential for terrorism exists," the warning said.

 

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