147 dead, Islamist gunmen killed after attack at Kenya college

Updated 8:42 PM EDT, Thu April 2, 2015
Now playing
01:50
147 students massacred at university in Kenya
al shabaab recruiting video features trump seg newday_00001307.jpg
PHOTO: Youtube/The_Path_to_Paradise
al shabaab recruiting video features trump seg newday_00001307.jpg
Now playing
01:26
Terror group uses Trump in recruitment video
kenya al-shabaab bus attack muslims shield christians mckenzie pkg nr_00005827.jpg
kenya al-shabaab bus attack muslims shield christians mckenzie pkg nr_00005827.jpg
Now playing
01:59
Muslims shield Christians in Kenya bus attack
Somali Al-Shebab fighters gather on February 13, 2012 in Elasha Biyaha, in the Afgoei Corridor, after a demonstration to support the merger of Al-shebab and the Al-Qaeda network. Shebab insurgents staged rallies across Somalia on February 13 to celebrate their group's recognition by Osama bin Laden's successor as a member of the Islamist Al-Qaeda network. Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri announced in a video message posted on jihadist forums on February 9, 2012 that Shebab fighters had joined ranks with the Islamist network. AFP PHOTO / Mohamed Abdiwahab (Photo credit should read Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Getty Images/File
Somali Al-Shebab fighters gather on February 13, 2012 in Elasha Biyaha, in the Afgoei Corridor, after a demonstration to support the merger of Al-shebab and the Al-Qaeda network. Shebab insurgents staged rallies across Somalia on February 13 to celebrate their group's recognition by Osama bin Laden's successor as a member of the Islamist Al-Qaeda network. Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri announced in a video message posted on jihadist forums on February 9, 2012 that Shebab fighters had joined ranks with the Islamist network. AFP PHOTO / Mohamed Abdiwahab (Photo credit should read Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:37
Why Al-Shabaab is a growing threat (2015)
pkg purefoy kenya inside garissa university _00003226.jpg
pkg purefoy kenya inside garissa university _00003226.jpg
Now playing
02:24
CNN goes inside site of university massacre
pkg mckenzie kenya garissa survivor_00002117.jpg
pkg mckenzie kenya garissa survivor_00002117.jpg
Now playing
02:01
Woman: I 'wiped myself' with blood to survive
pkg purefoy garissa fault lines_00000110.jpg
pkg purefoy garissa fault lines_00000110.jpg
Now playing
01:53
Security concerns as Kenya mourns
lv kenya school attack photos _00001303.jpg
PHOTO: CNN
lv kenya school attack photos _00001303.jpg
Now playing
02:20
First photos from inside Kenyan school massacre
lead dnt starr kenya university attack_00010120.jpg
PHOTO: Citizen TV
lead dnt starr kenya university attack_00010120.jpg
Now playing
02:27
Al-Shabaab claims responsibility for university attack
Al-Qaeda linked al-shabab recruits walk down a street on March 5, 2012 in the Deniile district of Somalian capital, Mogadishu, following their graduation.
PHOTO: Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images/FILE
Al-Qaeda linked al-shabab recruits walk down a street on March 5, 2012 in the Deniile district of Somalian capital, Mogadishu, following their graduation.
Now playing
02:41
Al-Shabaab: A Somali terror group with global ambitions
PHOTO: KARE
Now playing
03:17
Al-Shabaab calls for attacks on western shopping malls
Now playing
04:06
DHS Secretary: 'You have to be vigilant'
pkg robertson kenya shabaab new focus_00013030.jpg
pkg robertson kenya shabaab new focus_00013030.jpg
Now playing
03:08
Why Somali jihadists would strike Kenya
wrn von un convoy attacked in somalia_00001622.jpg
wrn von un convoy attacked in somalia_00001622.jpg
Now playing
01:02
U.N. convoy attacked in Somalia
Soldiers of Kenyan Defence Forces look over the bodies of some  36 Kenyans  as they lie at a quarry, Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. Kenya police say that at least 36 quarry workers were killed in an attack in northern Kenya  by suspected Islamic extremists from Somalia. Kenyan police chief David Kimaiyo confirmed the workers were killed early Tuesday in Mandera County. (AP Photo) ,
PHOTO: ap
Soldiers of Kenyan Defence Forces look over the bodies of some 36 Kenyans as they lie at a quarry, Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. Kenya police say that at least 36 quarry workers were killed in an attack in northern Kenya by suspected Islamic extremists from Somalia. Kenyan police chief David Kimaiyo confirmed the workers were killed early Tuesday in Mandera County. (AP Photo) ,
Now playing
01:25
Al-Shabaab kills 36 in gruesome attack
nr cnni mann intv menkaus_00003504.jpg
nr cnni mann intv menkaus_00003504.jpg
Now playing
03:54
Taking back Somalia
erin dnt feyerick terror audio tapes_00013622.jpg
PHOTO: U.S. Department of Justice
erin dnt feyerick terror audio tapes_00013622.jpg
Now playing
03:09
Audio of terrorists recruiting Americans
Smoke rises from the Westgate mall in Nairobi on September 23, 2013. Kenyan troops were locked in a fierce firefight with Somali militants inside an upmarket Nairobi shopping mall in a final push to end a siege that has left 43 dead and 200 wounded with an unknown number of hostages still being held. Somalia's Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab rebels said the carnage at the part Israeli-owned complex mall was in retaliation for Kenya's military intervention in Somalia, where African Union troops are battling the Islamists.
PHOTO: CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images
Smoke rises from the Westgate mall in Nairobi on September 23, 2013. Kenyan troops were locked in a fierce firefight with Somali militants inside an upmarket Nairobi shopping mall in a final push to end a siege that has left 43 dead and 200 wounded with an unknown number of hostages still being held. Somalia's Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab rebels said the carnage at the part Israeli-owned complex mall was in retaliation for Kenya's military intervention in Somalia, where African Union troops are battling the Islamists.
Now playing
02:16
Was Al-Shabaab strike a message to ISIS?
Men look at the wreckage of two vehicles sitting on the roadside in Mpeketoni.
PHOTO: STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
Men look at the wreckage of two vehicles sitting on the roadside in Mpeketoni.
Now playing
02:00
48 dead in Kenya coastal town attack
nr lemon video inside kenya mall _00003630.jpg
nr lemon video inside kenya mall _00003630.jpg
Now playing
00:42
Video shows gunmen inside Kenya mall

Story highlights

A total of 147 people were killed in the attack, Kenyan media and National Disaster Operation Centre report

Four terrorists have been killed and operation has ended "successfully," Kenyan official says

Islamist militant group claims responsibility for the carnage

(CNN) —  

The massacre that killed 147 people and wounded scores of others at a Kenyan university lasted for hours Thursday before the terror was over.

“It is a very sad day for Kenya,” Interior Ministry Joseph Nkaissery said of the carnage at Garissa University College.

The death toll is the highest in a terror attack on Kenyan soil since the U.S. Embassy was bombed in 1998. More than 200 people died in the Nairobi blast.

A total of 147 people were killed Thursday, according to the official Twitter account of Kenya’s National Disaster Operation Centre and Kenyan media reports. The agency also said 79 people were injured and 587 people were evacuated.

Four gunmen were killed, officials said.

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

Awaking to terror: ‘I am lucky to be alive’

Islamist gunmen burst into the university before dawn Thursday, shooting students and taking hostages during early morning prayer services.

At one point, the attackers cornered a building in which 360 students live, but some of the students escaped, Nkaissery said.

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

“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.

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

The attack was deadlier than an Al-Shabaab attack on the Westgate shopping center in Nairobi in September 2013 that left 67 people dead.

What is Al-Shabaab, and what does it want?

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 since the Kenyan government sent troops across the border to fight the group.

PHOTO: CNN

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 a 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.

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

Garissa University College, which has 815 students, was established in 2011 and is the only public university in the region.

The Kenyan Red Cross and the country’s health ministry organized 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” after 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.

CNN’s Brian Walker, Vasco Cotovio and Lillian Leposo contributed to this report.