At least 147 people are reported killed and dozens injured after suspected Al Shabaab gunmen attacked Garissa University College Thursday.
The government says over 518 students were rescued and 79 people were injured by the attackers and have been rushed to hospital.
Interior Security minister Joseph Nkaissery said four attackers had been killed.
Police say the five-or-so masked gunmen attacked the institution, a constituent college of the Moi University, at around 5.30am Thursday.
Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet said a dusk-to-dawn curfew will be imposed on four counties -Garissa, Wajir, Mandera and Tana River - from Friday starting at 6:30pm to 6:30am until April 16.
Nation reporter Abdimalik Hajir said he saw the bodies of two guards near the main gate of the institution. He said gunshots could be heard from the students’ hostels throughout the day.
Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and police entered the university’s compound in the morning and engaged the attackers in a gunfight for several hours.
Terrified students rescued from the college were gathered at a KDF camp near the Garissa airstrip.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery, who travelled to Garissa with Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet, told journalists at about 1.30pm that 280 of the university’s 815 students had been accounted for.
“Efforts are underway to track (down) the others,” he said. The university has 60 members of staff all of whom were reported accounted for by the National Disaster Operations Centre at about 4pm Thursday.
Police say the gunmen are cornered in one hostel on the campus and are preventing security forces from approaching by firing from a sniper’s position on the roof of one of the buildings. They are believed to be holding hostages. One person spotted fleeing the scene has been detained as a possible suspect.
The Kenya Government named Mohamed Kuno, a former madrassa teacher from Garissa who also goes by the names Mohamed Mohamud, Dulyadin and Gamadheere, as the mastermind of the attack and offered a Sh20 million bounty for information leading to his capture or killing. This is up from the initial Sh2 million bounty offered last year for either Kuno or Sheikh Ahmad Iman Ali, the leader of Al Shabaab’s Kenya cell.
Al Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it deliberately targeted non-Muslims in a raid that “began at 3am”. An official of the terror group interviewed by BBC said the death toll was certain to rise.
“We've killed many people,” he said. “Kenyans will be shocked when they go inside.”
Updated at 2119hrs Thursday to correct figures related to the death toll.