Minn. prep school feels pain of Kenya mall attack

A prep school in central Minnesota held a prayer vigil Monday for four students who lost family members in the horrific terrorist attack at a luxury shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, according to local reports.

Three current students and an alumna of St. John's Preparatory School lost relatives, including an uncle and grandfather, according to the St. Cloud Times newspaper.

Some 330 students attended the 20-minute service, rallying behind the students — Pomi, Yodit and Katema Aschenaki of Kenya; and Melike Menseh of Ghana.

Principal Matt Reichert told the St. Cloud Times that the school has attempted to be sensitive to students' needs amid the carnage in Kenya, which has left more than 60 people dead and scores injured.

"It is difficult to find the right balance of keeping them in classes and having their normal routine or just letting them have the day to themselves," Reichert told the newspaper.

He told NBC affiliate KARE 11 in Minneapolis that the bereaved students are "doing OK" and monitoring the ongoing hostage situation.

"They are staying in touch with family through Skype and still learning more about what happened," Reichert told the station.

"It is very difficult for teenagers being so far away from home," he said. "When one suffers, we all suffer."

He told the St. Cloud Times that some members of the two students families remain missing or are still unaccounted for.

The student body of St. John's Preparatory represents 18 countries, according to KARE 11. Roughly one-third of the students live on campus.

Kenyan security forces early Tuesday continued to hunt al Qaeda-linked attackers — said by Kenyan officials to include "two or three Americans" and a British woman — behind the deadly siege at the Westgate Mall.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kenyan soldiers take cover after heavy gunfire near Westgate mall in Nairobi on September 23. Carl De Souza / AFP - Getty Images