Kenya Attack: Survivor describes harrowing experience

Student Hellen Titus says she survived the 15 hour attack by fooling the gunmen into thinking she was dead.

Kenya Defence Forces pictured after they ended a siege by gunmen at a university on April 2, 2015 in the northeastern town of Garissa. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - As anger grows among residents in Kenya over what they say is their government's failure to prevent bloodshed, a Garissa University College survivor is describing her harrowing experiences.

Strapped with explosives, masked al Shabaab gunmen stormed the university, some 200 km from the Somali border, in a pre-dawn rampage on Thursday.

Tossing grenades and spraying bullets at cowering students, the attackers initially killed indiscriminately. But they later freed some Muslims and instead targeted Christian students during a siege that lasted about 15 hours.

At least 147 people were killed.

Student Hellen Titus says she survived the attack by fooling the gunmen into thinking she was dead.

She says she smeared the blood of her friend onto her body to make it seem like she'd already been shot.

Titus describes how she hid in a wardrobe, while the al Shabaab militants who she says spoke Swahili, and wore no shoes shot her friends in the head one by one.

"They kept saying 'shoot them shoot them' then after that they gave us a lecture."

WATCH: Newly released footage shows students running for their lives.


Kenyan authorities have now shut down the university.

The education cabinet secretary says all the students, mostly first and second years, will be transferred to other institutions.

Many of the survivors cannot imagine returning to the classrooms where their friends and colleagues lay dying.

The Kenyan government announced that the institution, one of very few higher learning institutions in the north-west of the country, would be shut down indefinitely.

They're planning on transferring students after they've received counselling and recovered from the physical wounds of the attack.

Furthermore, the death toll is likely to climb above 147, a government source and media said on Friday.

Officials said almost 150 people died, with at least 79 wounded, many critically. But with an uncertain number of students and staff still missing, the casualties may yet mount.

More than 400 people have been killed by al Qaeda-allied al Shabaab in the east African nation since Uhuru Kenyatta took office in April 2013, including some 67 people who died in a blitz on a shopping mall in the capital Nairobi in September of that year.

Al-Qaeda itself killed some 207 people when it blew up the US embassy in Nairobi in 1998, an attack which remains the single biggest loss of life in Kenya since its independence from Britain in 1963.

Al-Shabaab says its recent wave of attacks are retribution for Kenya sending troops into Somalia to fight the group alongside other African Union peacekeepers.

The group, which at one point controlled most of Somalia, has lost swathes of territory in recent years but diplomats have repeatedly warned this has not diminished al Shabaab's ability to stage guerrilla-style attacks at home and abroad.

LISTEN: India condemns attack.

Additional reporting by Reuters.