Mogadishu truck bomb: Death toll rises to over 200

Somali capital reels following the most powerful blast ever witnessed in the city

 

The death toll from the most powerful bomb blast ever witnessed in Somalia’s capital rose to more than 200 on Sunday, with more than 200 injured, making it the deadliest single attack ever in the Horn of Africa nation, police and hospital sources said.

Doctors were struggling to assist horrifically wounded victims, many burnt beyond recognition.

Officials feared the death toll would continue to climb following Saturday’s truck bomb that targeted a busy street near key ministries.

Ambulance sirens still echoed across the city as bewildered families wandered in the rubble of buildings, looking for missing relatives.

“In our 10-year experience as the first-responder in Mogadishu, we haven’t seen anything like this,” the Aamin Ambulance service tweeted.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declared three days of mourning and was among thousands of people who responded to a desperate plea by hospitals for blood donations for the wounded victims.

“I am appealing to all Somali people to come forward and donate,” he said.

“The hospital is overwhelmed by both dead and wounded. We also received people whose limbs were cut away by the bomb. This is really horrendous, unlike any other time in the past,” said Dr Mohamed Yusuf, the director of Medina Hospital.

Overnight, rescue workers with torch lights searched for survivors trapped under the rubble of the largely destroyed Safari Hotel, which is close to Somalia’s foreign ministry. The explosion blew off metal gates and blast walls erected outside the hotel.

‘National disaster’

Somalia’s government has blamed the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab extremist group for the attack, which it called a “national disaster”. However, al-Shabab, which often targets high-profile areas of the capital, had yet to comment.

“They don’t care about the lives of Somali people, mothers, fathers and children,” prime minister Hassan Ali Khaire said.

“They have targeted the most populated area in Mogadishu, killing only civilians.”

Somalia’s information minister, Abdirahman Omar Osman, said the blast was the largest the city had ever seen.

“It’s a sad day. This is how merciless and brutal they are, and we have to unite against them,” he said, speaking to the state-run radio station.

The US joined the condemnation, saying “such cowardly attacks reinvigorate the commitment of the US to assist our Somali and African Union partners to combat the scourge of terrorism”.

The US military has stepped up drone strikes and other efforts this year against al-Shabab, which is also fighting the Somali military and more than 20,000 African Union forces in the country.

Saturday’s blast occurred two days after the head of the US Africa Command was in Mogadishu to meet with Somalia’s president, and two days after the country’s defence minister and army chief resigned for undisclosed reasons.

AP