SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: April 02, 2015

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Garissa University College

Region & Country:Eastern Africa | Kenya

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 2, 2015, five gunmen stormed the campus of Garissa University College in northeastern Kenya, entering dormitories, taking and killing scores of student hostages and others.  The militant group Al Shabaab took responsibility for the attack.

At around 5:30 am, the attackers reportedly forced their way onto the campus, firing at the guards stationed near the entrance.  Police arrived at the scene shortly thereafter and exchanged gunfire with the attackers, who then retreated into one of the campus dormitories.  According to witness accounts, the attackers entered dorm rooms, and asked students whether they were Muslim or Christian, releasing the Muslim students, and killing or taking as hostages those who answered that they were Christian. As of this report, authorities indicate that some 143 students have been killed, and another 79 injured in the attack.  Additionally, four of the militants were killed, while the fifth was reportedly arrested.

Scholars at Risk condemns this extreme, targeted, violent attack on the higher education space, and sends condolences to the victims, their families and the entire Garissa University College community. In addition to the terrible loss of life and injuries to many, such attacks–especially when accompanied by reports of intentional ethnic or religious animus–target the core values of the university, including equitable access to all qualified persons, academic freedom and free exchange of ideas, institutional autonomy, and social responsibility.  State authorities have a responsibility to safeguard these values by taking all reasonable steps to ensure the security of higher education communities and their members, including a responsibility to deter future attacks by investigating incidents and making every effort to hold perpetrators accountable, consistent with internationally recognized standards. Members of society similarly have a responsibility to help safeguard the higher education space, especially following incidents of such gross violence, by pressing demands to State authorities for greater protection and accountability, and by contributing to efforts to understand and reinforce principles of autonomy and academic freedom.


According to subsequent reports, the attack left 147 people dead: 142 students, three security officers and two university security personnel. An additional 104 were reportedly injured, 19 of those critically.