NAIROBI, Kenya — Over 140 Kenyan students were shot dead today as an Islamic terror group carried out a bloody attack aimed at Christians at a university in Nairobi.
“We sorted people out and released the Muslims,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, the spokesman for the group Al-Shabaab, which took responsibility for the armed assault, announced. “There are many dead bodies of Christians inside the building. We are also holding many Christians alive.”
The incident occurred at Garissa University in the early morning hours on Thursday, where four masked gunman threw explosives at the main gate outside of the property, and then entered the building and began gunning students down. Reports state that shouts of “Allahu Akbar,” or “Allah is the greatest,” were heard as the attack was underway.
Collins Wetangula, the vice chairman of the student union, was one of the witnesses to the terror.
“If you were a Christian, you were shot on the spot,” he told Sky News. “With each blast of the gun I thought I was going to die.”
Students that were taken hostages were held in a dormitory, and unconfirmed reports state that explosives were staged around those that identified as Christian. However, some students that had converted to Islam rather than being born into Muslim families were also shot dead.
Hundreds began running for safety as gunfire rang out, with some locking themselves in rooms or fleeing the building altogether.
“The sound of gunfire was all over. We couldn’t tell what was the right direction to go to be safe,” student Ann Musyoka told USA Today. “We had to face the gunmen; they shot several people as we escaped towards the gate.”
The hours-long standoff ended late this afternoon as security forces stormed the university in an effort to save those taken hostage and stop the gunmen from shedding more blood. Kenya’s National Disaster Operations Center announced following the confrontation that the assailants had been shot dead.
“The operation at Garissa University College has ended, with all four terrorists killed,” it posted to Twitter.
174 people were killed in the terror attack, including two police officers, and at least 179 others were injured.
As previously reported, Al-Shabaab, being translated, means “The Youth.” It states that its goal is to wage war against the “enemies of Islam” and is recognized by the United States and several other countries as a terrorist organization. The group is believed to have been formed in 2006 and is affiliated with al Qaeda and the Islamic Courts Union.
In February, Al-Shabaab released an online video where it urged attacks on three specific international malls: the Oxford Street shopping strip in London, England, the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada and the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. Security measures tightened following word of the threats against the U.S. mall.
“We extend our deep condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed in this heinous attack, which reportedly included the targeting of Christian students,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Thursday.