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NAIROBI, Kenya — Gunmen attacked a university campus in northeastern Kenya early Thursday, clashing with guards, forcing their way into dormitories, taking hostages and singling out non-Muslims, the authorities said.
Kenya’s interior minister, Joseph Nkaissery, said that 147 people had been killed, including four attackers. He contended that the deadly siege at the university had ended, and that security forces were carefully sweeping the campus for any remaining threats.
In an audio message released on Thursday, a Shabab spokesman said the attack had been carried out because “the Christian government of Kenya has invaded our country,” a reference to the Kenyan military’s 2011 incursion into Somalia to oust the Shabab from its strongholds.
He said the university had been targeted because it was educating many Christian students in “a Muslim land under colony,” a reference to the large Somali population in that part of Kenya. He called the university part of Kenya’s “plan to spread their Christianity and infidelity.”
The siege was a devastating blow in a country that has long been a front-line state in the battle with Islamist extremism. In 2013, the Shabab mounted an attack on a Nairobi shopping mall that turned into a four-day ordeal, shaking Kenya’s prized sense of stability and leaving 67 people dead.