According to reports from the Associated Press, al-Shabaab terrorists attacked a college in northeastern Kenya early today, targeting Christians and killing at least 70 people and wounding 60 others.
Even as security forces cornered the gunmen in a dormitory at Garissa University College where they could be holding hostages, survivors described to the Associated Press a harrowing scene, where people were mercilessly gunned down and bullets flew through the air as they ran for their lives.
Collins Wetangula, the vice chairman of the student union, said he was preparing to take a shower when he heard gunshots coming from Tana dorm, which hosts both men and women. The campus has six dorms and at least 887 students, he said.
When the gunmen arrived at his dormitory, Wetangula could hear them opening doors and asking the students who had hidden inside whether they were Muslims or Christians.
“If you were a Christian you were shot on the spot,” he said. “With each blast of the gun I thought I was going to die.”
The gunmen started to shoot rapidly and it was as if there was an exchange of fire, he said.
A spokesman for al-Shabaab says it is responsible for the ongoing attack, according to Associated Press. Ali Mohamud Rage said in a radio broadcast that fighters from the group are conducting a “heavy” military operation inside the campus. Kenya’s security forces are trying to dislodge the gunmen from at least one dorm where the attackers could be holding hostages.
Sources told Open Doors that the atmosphere remains tense in Garissa and there is heavy police presence.
One Christian said: “Please pray for us. This is a terrible situation. Please pray that these students would be rescued. Pray also for parents who do not know the fate of their children.”
Open Doors has been informed that due to previous trauma, many Christians are very afraid.
Al-Shabaab also attacked the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in 2013, killing dozens. Kenya’s northern and eastern regions, which are near the Somali border, have suffered many attacks blamed on the al-Qaeda-linked Somali group, which has vowed retribution on Kenya for sending troops into Somalia to fight the militants.
Open Doors noted two months ago that insecurity in northeast Kenya and the threat from al-Shabaab has plunged the area into crisis. Recent targeting of Christians has adversely affected Christians in the area. St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Mandera closed in December 2014 after the congregation lost 11 members in two al-Shabaab attacks. Mandera is aprroximately 400 miles from Garissa.
Also reflecting the increased violence against Christians, Kenya jumped from No. 43 to No. 19 on the Open Doors 2015 World Watch List of countries where persecution of Christians is the greatest. This increase was the most of any of the 50 countries.
Open Doors will continue to support these brave Christians in northeastern Kenya with distribution of Bibles, theological leadership training courses, discipleship training, family ministry seminars, cross-cultural seminars and socio-economic projects.
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Katie Rouse at 678-410-9575.