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Gunmen Kill At Least 15 In Al-Shabab Attack On College In Kenya

Students gather at a distance from the Garissa University College after an attack by gunmen in Garissa, Kenya, Thursday. The attack has injured dozens of people; a siege is ongoing.

Updated at 9:09 a.m. ET

Somali Islamist group Al-Shabab says it's behind an attack on a Kenyan university campus in Garissa that has killed at least 15 people and injured 60. A siege is ongoing at the school, which is reportedly attended by more than 800 students. At least 280 students are safe and accounted for, Kenya's Citizen TV reports.

The attack reportedly started with explosions and the killing of two guards, as gunmen attacked around 5:30 a.m., local time. The attackers then entered a dormitory. Al-Shabab says it released Muslims after separating them from Christians, some of whom were killed.

From Nairobi, NPR's Gregory Warner reports:

"Just after gunmen stormed the Kenyan university dorm in the dawn hours, terrified witnesses reported hearing them shout a dreaded question: Can you recite the Shahada — the Muslim prayer.

"The lives of those who could recite it may have been spared, though other witnesses reported gunmen shooting indiscriminately at students and teachers.

"The attack is happening in Garissa, a Kenyan town 100 miles from the porous Somali border. There have been frequent attacks in this highly militarized town but none where so many civilians were targeted at once for so long.

Kenyans saw echoes of the siege by Al Shabaab in 2013 on Westgate Mall in Nairobi, with a similar mode of entry designed to surprise and trap civilians inside."

Garissa University College got its start in the 1990s as a teacher teaching college, according to its website. The school was upgraded in 2011; it says it is now "the first and only public institution of higher learning offering approved university degree courses in the region."

In a statement, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta urged his people to stay calm.

"I ... assure the Nation that my Government has undertaken appropriate deployment to the affected area, and is fully seized of the situation," he said.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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