Paramedics help a student who was injured during an attack April 2, 2015, on the campus of Garrisa University College by gunmen affiliated with Somalia’s al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militants.
CARL DE SOUZA/Getty Images

Gunmen stormed onto a college campus in Kenya right before dawn Thursday and began shooting students and taking hostages, CNN reports. Islamist terrorist group al-Shabab, based in Somalia, took responsibility for the attack, which claimed at least 140 lives.

Students at Garrisa University College who witnessed the attack described how the attackers killed students based on their religion, separating them into two groups: Muslim and Christian. 

According to a witness named Joel Ayora, the attackers interrupted a Christian service and took hostages, and then went inside dormitories and continued to shoot and target students who were not Muslim.

"We were sleeping when we heard a loud explosion that was followed by gunshots, and everyone started running for safety," Japhet Mwala, a student at the university, told CNN.

Mwala described how he narrowly escaped: "There are those who were not able to leave the hostels where the gunmen headed and started firing. I am lucky to be alive because I jumped through the fence with other students."

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Two attackers were killed by security officials and one was detained, Kenyan authorities said. It was unclear how many gunmen were involved and whether the attack was over. According to CNN affiliate NTV, ‚Äúheavy gunfire and explosions‚ÄĚ could still be heard nine hours after the attack began.

Garrisa University College has approximately 815 students enrolled, and more than 500 have been accounted for. All faculty members have been accounted for.

"This is a moment for everyone throughout the country to be vigilant as we continue to confront and defeat our enemies," Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said.

Read more at CNN.