Garissa terror attack: Horrific details emerge as Kenya searches for victims

Story highlights

  • "I just rubbed myself, soaked myself with that blood," student says
  • Relatives still looking for the missing

Garissa, Kenya (CNN)When the gunmen stormed in, barefoot and barking in Swahili, student Hellen Titus scampered into a closet and stayed quiet.

Bullets whizzed past as her schoolmates fled in the dark. Gunshots pierced their heads, one after another.
    In the chaos, Titus decided she was safer in the closet. But her refuge was short lived -- the gunmen who raided her college in the Kenyan town of Garissa on Thursday came for her an hour later.
    They led her and dozens of other students into a community room normally used for viewing television.
    Lie down, the attackers told them, lecturing them on how the Quran forbids the killing of women. They killed the men.
    Not much later, they turned the weapons on the women.
    "He was telling him, 'shoot them, shoot them'," she said of a terrorist.
    Titus survived by smearing a friend's blood on her face and playing dead.
    "I just rubbed myself, soaked myself with that blood," she said Friday at a makeshift center for evacuated students. "They skipped me."

    Students still missing

    More horrific details emerged Saturday about the terrorist attack, the deadliest in Kenya since al Qaeda bombed the United States Embassy in Nairobi in 1998. This week's attack by Somali militant group Al-Shabaab left 147 people dead.
    And two days later, some people still don't know whether their loved ones are alive.
    Zeddy Godwano has not slept for hours; his brother is still missing. Godwano has looked for him at major hospitals in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, where most of the wounded were airlifted.
    "Since we heard news in the radios and televisions, I was worried and it made me rush here in Nairobi to look for him," he said.

    Broken, shocked

    Most friends and relatives streamed in at dawn, patiently awaiting confirmation of the fate of their loved ones. Others lay on the ground, wailing, too broken to stand.
    "They are coming when they are very shocked ... when they are very confused," said Professor Catherine Oshotha, a psychologist. "They do not know whether their loved ones are here ... whether they've died. They are coming here because they've tried to contact their children and they are not getting them or they are not hearing from them."
    Kenyan police arrested five suspects Friday, Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery said.
    The militants killed 142 students, three security officers and two university security personnel. The attack left 104 people injured, some of them in critical condition, Nkaissery said.
    As search and recovery efforts continued, police found a man who was not a student hiding under a bed, sources said. He was taken into custody and was being treated as a suspect, sources close to the search said.
    After the man was discovered, authorities conducted an additional search of the building. Three people, all students, were found alive. One female student was under a pile of bodies; another was in a closet. A male student was hiding in a bathroom, the sources said.
    Most of the victims had been shot in the back of the head, a medic told CNN.
    "They're facing down, always," a worker with St. John's ambulance service said Friday.
    The Education Ministry has closed the university indefinitely.

    Raging gunfire

    The explosion and gunfire cut through Thursday morning's quiet on the campus, 90 miles from Kenya's border with Somalia, tearing students out of their sleep.
    The gunmen first stormed a Christian prayer service, where they killed some worshipers and took others hostage. Then they went across campus with them, shooting non-Muslims and sparing Muslims. They gave religious sermons as they killed, witnesses said.
    Al-Shabaab has intensified attacks in Kenya since the country sent troops to Somalia in 2011 to help battle the militants.
    The terrorist group released a statement Friday threatening more bloodshed.
    "Do not dream of security in your land until security becomes a reality in Muslim lands," it said.
    The university will confirm Saturday whether everyone has been accounted for following this week's attack.