A coordinated attack on a college in Kenya has left at least 14 dead — and hundreds more unaccounted for at the moment. It’s an attack reminiscent of the Westgate mall attack from September 2013, and authorities believe al-Shabaab is behind this attack, too. The BBC had this report early, when the casualty counts were still low and before al-Shabaab claimed responsibility:
A swarm of gunmen stormed a Kenya university before dawn Thursday, firing indiscriminately and taking hostages.
At least 15 people have been killed, security and interior ministry officials said, according to CNN affiliate Citizen TV. The officials said 550 people are unaccounted for at the campus that had about 815 students.
At least 65 people were hospitalized from the attack at Garissa University College, the Kenyan Red Cross said.
The Somali-based Al-Shabaab militant group claimed responsibility. The security and ministry officials said one terrorist was arrested as he tried to slip through the security cordon and flee the scene.
CNN explained the situation a little while later, explaining al-Shabaab’s descent from a rebellion to a group much more focused on soft targets rather than seizing power:
According to CBS, the terrorists have seized Christians at the college to use as hostages:
Augustine Alanga, a 21-year-old student who survived the attack at Garissa University College, described a panicked scene as gunshots rang out outside his dormitory in the pre-dawn hours when most people were still fast asleep.
The shooting became more intense almost immediately, he told The Associated Press by phone. The heavy gunfire forced some students to stay indoors as others fled with gunmen firing at them.
He said he saw at least five heavily armed, masked gunmen.
Security forces were providing little information, but, CBS News correspondent Debora Patta said it appeared that some Christian students were being held hostage in one of the dorms.
In fact, al-Shabaab bragged about it:
Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, the group’s military operations spokesman, said it was holding many Christian hostages inside.
“We sorted people out and released the Muslims,” he told Reuters. “Fighting still goes on inside the college.”
CBS also reports that Garissa College students started getting letters a week ago that an attack was imminent, as did students at another university in Nairobi. Their article does not indicate whether the school took any precautions as a result, and it’s possible that this is the kind of misinformation that arises in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack such as this. (Similar rumors after 9/11 still fuel conspiracy theories to this day.) As sophisticated newswatchers know, many of the details reported in the first few hours of a crisis such as this should be considered as unconfirmed until later, and many of them will change, especially reports of casualties and the number of gunmen.
Kenyan television demanded answers about how another Westgate scenario could have succeeded:
We’ll keep up as events unfold.