Nairobi: At least 15 people were killed and over 60 injured by armed assailants who forced their way into a university in northeastern Kenya and opened fire at students early Thursday even as authorities said 280 students were rescued while 535 still remained unaccounted for.
Kenya Red Cross officials said at least 65 people, including two policemen, were injured during the attack at the Garissa University College, Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation reported.
The two policemen and a civilian have been airlifted to Nairobi for treatment.
One suspect in the attack has been nabbed, authorities said.
Somalia-based Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack, Xinhua news agency reported.
"We have killed many people and Kenyans will be shocked when they get inside," they said in their radio station.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery told journalists in Garissa that the suspect was arrested while trying to flee the scene, and is being interrogated in connection with the attack at Moi University campus in Garissa.
Nkaiserry also confirmed that 15 people were killed, 65 hospitalized, 280 rescued while 535 remained unaccounted for, adding that efforts were underway to track the missing.
"The institution has 815 students and 60 members of staff. The security agents have managed to account for 280 students and all the members of staff," he told journalists in Garissa.
The attack started at dawn from the mosque inside the campus where the attackers shot at worshippers indiscriminately.
Students who escaped the gunfire said there were at least five attackers. Many other students and teachers were still being held hostage.
There were fears of mass casualties as the gunmen remained holed up in the compound, Kenya's National Disaster Operations Centre said in an earlier report.
Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet said there was a shootout between attackers and police officers who were guarding the students' hostels.
"The attackers shot indiscriminately while inside the university compound."
"However, the attackers retreated and gained entry into the hostel... a joint force composed of National Police Service Commission (NPS) officers and other security agencies arrived and are engaged in an elaborative process of flushing out the gunmen from the hostels," he said in a statement posted on his Twitter account.
Kenya Defence Force (KDF) and police entered the university's compound.
Local security officials said there had been threats on the institutions there from terror groups.
"We had the threats earlier and had alerted the institutions here," a security official said.