Gunmen from the militant Islamist group al-Shabab yesterday killed at least 147 people and took students hostage at a university in north-eastern Kenya.
But by evening, the operation to secure the Garissa University College campus was over, with all four attackers killed, Kenyan government officials said.
Officials said 587 students had been evacuated, 79 of whom were injured.
An overnight curfew was imposed in parts of the country after the incident.
Four counties near the Kenya-Somalia border, Garissa, Wajir, Mandera and Tana River, would have dusk-to-dawn curfews imposed, disaster MANAGEMENT officials said.
Nine critically injured students were airlifted to the capital Nairobi for treatment, they added.
But each student had been accounted for by the end of the evacuation, reported the BBC.
UN Secretary-Genera,l Ban Ki-moon condemned what he called a “terrorist attack” and said the UN was ready to help Kenya “prevent and counter terrorism and violent extremism”.
The Kenyan government has named Mohamed Kuno, a high-ranking al-Shabab official, as the mastermind of the attack.
A BBC Somali Service reporter said Kuno was a headmaster at an Islamic school in Garissa before he quit in 2007.
It placed a bounty of $53,000 (£36,000) on him which was later raised to $217,000 (£140,000). A BBC Somali Service reporter said Kuno was a headmaster at an Islamic school in Garissa before he quit in 2007. He goes by the nickname “Dulyadeyn”, which means “long-armed one” in Somali.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta offered his condolences to families of the victims and ordered “urgent steps” to ensure police recruits could begin training immediately. “We have suffered unnecessarily due to shortage of security personnel,” he said.
Earlier, al-Shabab told the BBC its members were holding Christians hostage and freeing Muslims.
The gunmen reportedly ordered students to lie down on the floor, but some of them escaped.
Student Augustine Alanga told the BBC: “It was horrible, there was shooting everywhere.”
He said it was “pathetic” that the university was only guarded by two police officers.
Student Collins Wetangula said when the gunmen entered his hostel, he could hear them opening doors and asking if the people inside were Muslims or Christians, the AP news agency reported.
“If you were a Christian you were shot on the spot. With each blast of the gun I thought I was going to die,” he said.
Al-Shabab said it attacked the university because it is at war with Kenya.
Kenyan troops entered Somalia in October 2011 in an effort to stop the Islamists from crossing the long, porous border between the two countries and kidnapping people – but their presence achieved the opposite effect, provoking al-Shabab to increase its activity in Kenya.
Al-Shabab is fighting to create an Islamic state in Somalia and is banned as a terrorist group by both the US and the UK.
“It was horrible, there was shooting everywhere,” student Alanga told the BBC.
The Kenya National Disaster Operation Centre said all staff at the university had been accounted for.
The university opened in 2011 and is the only place of higher education in the region.
The BBC added that because of its proximity to Somalia, Garissa is an easy target for al-Shabab militants and there have been several attacks in the past.
The UK and Australia issued alerts this week warning of potential terror attacks in parts of the country, including Garissa. There has also been a specific alert for universities in the country.
George Musamali, a security specialist and former officer in Kenya’s paramilitary police, told the BBC the authorities had “failed the students” by being poorly prepared.
“We’ve had intel (intelligence) for the last three months that al-Shabab was planning this kind of attack… and still they have been successful,” he said.
Reacting to the incident yesterday, President Goodluck Jonathan condemned al-Shabab’s attack on the university.
He also extended his heartfelt condolences to the government and people of Kenya and to the families of those who died in the gruesome terrorist attack on the Garissa University College in Kenya.
The president, in a statement by presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, utterly condemned the deliberate targeting of innocent persons, schools and other soft targets by terrorists.
He said such atrocious, despicable and barbaric acts of violence ought to have no place in any civilised society.
Jonathan assured President Kenyatta and the brotherly people of Kenya that Nigeria stands in full solidarity with them as they come to grips once again with the aftermath of another heinous terrorist attack on their country.
Nigeria, Jonathan affirmed, would continue to work with Kenya, other African countries and the international community to rid the world of all terrorist groups.
He said he believed that the attack on the Kenyan university and other similar atrocities across the world must strengthen and solidify the resolve of the global community to take more urgent and coordinated actions to speedily defeat the agents of global terror.
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