al Shabab
Members of al Shabab are suspected to be involved in the attack on Kenyan university.Reuters

Heavy gunfire and explosions have been reported inside Kenya's northern Garissa University College after an attack by masked gunmen.

Local media reported that the gunmen, suspected to be al-Shabaab fighters, have taken hostages.

A Reuters report said two guards who were manning the university gate have been killed.

The attack began around 5.30am on Thursday (2 April) and police were engaged in combat with the attackers.

An eyewitness cited by the BBC said the gunmen were indiscriminate in their attack and shooting everyone on sight.

According to Kenya Red Cross officials, two policemen and a student who were injured have been rushed to hospital.

The Kenya Defence Forces have arrived at the university. The place is surrounded by police and several ambulances are on standby.

"According to some of the students who escaped, there are around five gunmen and they entered the university dormitory while students were sleeping," Alinoor Moulid, a freelance journalist, told Al Jazeera.

"At the moment, I can hear sirens, and at some point I could hear an exchange of gunfire."

Garissa is an easy target for al-Shabaab militants as it is close to Somalia and has been blighted by several terror attacks in the past.

Kenya has recently witnessed a series of deadly attacks in its north and eastern regions, mostly carried out by Somalia-based jihadist group al-Shabaab. This includes the Westgate shopping centre attack in Nairobi in September 2013, when 67 people were killed.

The jihadists, fighting to create an Islamic state in Somalia, have vowed retribution against Kenya for sending its troops to Somalia.

US President Barack Obama is making a long-awaited trip to Kenya this July, visiting his father's homeland for the first time since winning presidency.