The masked attackers — strapped with explosives and armed with AK-47s — singled out non-Muslim students at Garissa University College and then gunned them down without mercy, survivors said. Others ran for their lives with bullets whistling through the air.
Amid the massacre, the men took dozens of hostages in a dormitory as they battled troops and police before the operation ended after about 13 hours, witnesses said.
When gunfire from the Kenyan security forces struck the attackers, the militants exploded "like bombs," Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery said, adding that the shrapnel wounded some of the officers.
Al-Shabab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage said fighters from the Somalia-based extremist group were responsible. The al-Qaida-linked group has been blamed for a series of attacks in Kenya, including the siege at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in 2013 that killed 67 people, as well as other violence in the north. The group has vowed to retaliate against Kenya for sending troops to Somalia in 2011 to fight the militants staging cross-border attacks.
Most of the 147 dead were students, but two security guards, one policeman and one soldier also were killed in the attack, Nkaissery said.
At least 79 people were wounded at the campus 145 kilometers (90 miles) from the Somali border, he said. Some of the more seriously wounded were flown to Nairobi for treatment.