At least 79 killed in Mogadishu truck bomb

More than 100 were wounded in blast at a security checkpoint, health officials say

Zoe Tidman
Saturday 28 December 2019 10:27
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Deadly car bomb in Somali capital Mogadishu

At least 79 people have been killed in a truck bomb explosion in the capital of Somalia, with one international organisation working in the country claiming the toll was more than 90.

The blast at a security checkpoint in Mogadishu also left more than 90 civilians injured and killed mostly students returning to class, according to the city’s mayor, Omar Muhamoud. Aamin Ambulance service director Abdiqadir Abdulrahman said that the number of injured was closer to 125 and that hundreds of locals residents donated blood in response to desperate appeals.

Ahmed Awad, the country’s foreign minister, called the victims “students with ambition” and “hardworking men and women”, and said two Turkish citizens died in the attack. A small team of Turkish engineers were said to be present at the time of the blast, constructing a road into Mogadishu.

Saturday is a working day in the Muslim country and the explosion occurred during the morning rush hour. Rescuers carried bodies past the twisted wreckage of a vehicle.

Citing an international organisation which did not want to be named, Reuters reported the death toll was more than 90 and that university students and 17 police officers were among those killed. Abdirizak Mohamed, a Somalian MP, earlier tweeted that the toll could be more than 90 people, with most being civilian casualties. The bomb targeted a tax collection centre, according to police.

Images from the scene showed the mangled frames of vehicles and bodies lying on the ground after what was one of the deadliest attacks to hit the Somalian capital in recent times.

Qali Ibrahim was one of those looking for news about a loved one, her husband. Hours of searching from hospital to hospital had proved fruitless as there was no word of Muktar Abukar, a 35-year-old homebuilder whom she married four months earlier.

The 18-year-old told Reuters that at Mogadishu’s biggest hospital, Medina, she and her sister-in-law were then told to look among a row of dead bodies that had not yet been identified. Ms Ibrahim said she pulled back the sheet on the first corpse she came to, finding a badly burned body she recognised as her husband’s from a deep scar on one of his fingers.

“We were together last night,” the three-month-pregnant teenager said. “The world is so painful.”

After the explosion, 55-year-old Sabdow Ali, who lives nearby, said he left his house and counted at least 13 people dead.

“Dozens of injured people were screaming for help but the police immediately opened fire and I rushed back to my house,” he told Reuters.

No one has claimed responsibility for the explosion, although al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group, often carries out such attacks. The most deadly attack blamed on al-Shabaab was in October 2017 when a bomb-laden truck exploded next to a fuel tanker in Mogadishu, creating a fireball that killed nearly 600 people.

Al-Shabaab is now able to make its own explosives, its “weapon of choice,” United Nations experts monitoring sanctions on Somalia said earlier this year. The group had previously relied on military-grade explosives captured during assaults on African Union (AU) peacekeeping forces, who have been present in Somalia since 2007. The AU has been gradually withdrawing its forces over the past several years.

The extremist group was pushed out of Mogadishu several years ago but continues to target high-profile areas such as checkpoints and hotels in the seaside city.

A suicide bomber set off their device in the office of Mogadishu’s mayor in July, killing at least 6 people and the mayor, Abdirahman Omar Osman. The extremist group said it was responsible for the blast.

Somalia’s president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, condemned the attack as a “heinous act of terror” by al-Shabaab.

Additional reporting by Associated Press and Reuters

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