Somali president says at least 100 people killed in car bombings
MOGADISHU, Somalia – Somalia’s president said at least 100 people were killed in two car bombings on Saturday at a busy junction in the capital and the number could rise in the country’s deadliest attack since a deadly attack. A truck bomb at the same location five years ago killed more than 500 people.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, at the site of the explosions in Mogadishu, told journalists that nearly 300 others were injured. “We ask our international partners and Muslims around the world to send their doctors here because we cannot take all the victims abroad for treatment,” he said.
The al-Qaida-linked extremist group al-Shabab, which often targets the capital and controls parts of the country, claimed responsibility, saying it targeted the education ministry. It claimed the ministry was an “enemy base” receiving support from non-Muslim countries and was “committed to removing Somali children from the Muslim faith.”
Al-Shabab usually doesn’t claim responsibility when large numbers of civilians are killed, as in the 2017 explosion, but it has been angered by a new government attack to shut down its financial networks. . The group said it was committed to fighting until the country was ruled by Islamic law, and they asked civilians to stay away from government areas.
Somalia’s president, elected this year, said the country is still at war with al-Shabab “and we are winning.”
The Mogadishu attack came on a day when the president, prime minister and other senior officials were meeting to discuss expanded efforts to combat violent extremism and al-Shabab in particular. . The extremists, who seek an Islamic state, responded to the attack by killing prominent clan leaders in an apparent attempt to thwart grassroots support.
The attack overwhelmed first responders in Somalia, which has one of the world’s weakest health systems after decades of conflict. In hospitals and elsewhere, relatives frantically peeked under plastic sheets and body bags, looking for loved ones.
Halima Duwane is looking for her uncle, Abdullahi Jama. “We don’t know if he’s dead or alive but the last time we contacted each other, he was around,” she said, crying.
Those who witnessed the attack were flabbergasted. Witness Abdirazak Hassan said: “I can’t count the bodies on the ground due to the (number of) deaths.
An Associated Press journalist at the scene said the second explosion occurred in front of a busy restaurant during lunchtime. The explosion destroyed tuk-tuks and other vehicles in the area where many restaurants and hotels were located.
The Somali Journalists Syndicate, citing colleagues and police, said one journalist was killed and two others injured in the second explosion while rushing to the scene of the first. Aamin Ambulance Service said a second explosion destroyed one of its response vehicles.
It remains unclear how the explosives-laden vehicles reached the high-profile site in Mogadishu, a city densely packed with checkpoints and constantly on alert for attacks.
The United States has described al-Shabab as one of al-Qaida’s most dangerous organizations and has targeted it with numerous airstrikes in recent years. Hundreds of US troops have returned home after former President Donald Trump withdrew.