Somalia’s leader says at least 100 killed in Saturday attack
Somalia’s president says at least 100 people were killed in Saturday’s two car bombings at a busy junction in the capital and the toll could rise.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in a statement at the site of the explosions in Mogadishu told journalists early Sunday that nearly 300 other people were wounded.
It was the deadliest attack in Somalia since a truck bombing at the same spot in October 2017 killed more than 500 people.
Somalia’s government has blamed the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group, which often targets the capital. The group doesn’t make claims of responsibility when large numbers of civilians are killed, as in the 2017 blast.
Somalia’s president, elected this year, said the country remained at war with al-Shabab “and we are winning.” The government, along with militia groups, has been engaged in a new offensive against the extremists who hold large parts of the country and is applying pressure on the group’s financial network.
The extremists, who seek an Islamic state, have responded by killing prominent clan leaders in an apparent effort to dissuade grassroots support for the offensive.
The attack in Mogadishu occurred on a day when the president, prime minister and other senior officials were meeting to discuss expanded efforts to combat violent extremism and especially al-Shabab.
At hospitals and elsewhere, frantic relatives peeked under plastic sheeting and into body bags, looking for loved ones.
“I couldn’t count the bodies on the ground due to the (number of) fatalities,” witness Abdirazak Hassan said. He said the first blast hit the perimeter wall of the education ministry, where street vendors and money changers were located.
An Associated Press journalist at the scene said the second blast occurred in front of a busy restaurant during lunchtime. The blasts demolished tuk-tuks and other vehicles in an area of many restaurants and hotels.
The Somali Journalists Syndicate, citing colleagues and police, said one journalist was killed and two others wounded by the second blast while rushing to the scene of the first. The Aamin ambulance service said the second blast destroyed one of its responding vehicles.
The United States has described al-Shabab as one of al-Qaida’s deadliest organizations and targeted it with scores of airstrikes in recent years. Hundreds of U.S. military personnel have returned to the country after former President Donald Trump withdrew them.