At least 100 people died on Saturday in the two car bomb explosions at a busy intersection in Somalia’s capital and the number could rise, the country’s president said on Sunday.
Nearly 300 people were injured, the president said, Hassan Sheikh Mohamudspeaking to the press at the scene of the incident.
It was the deadliest attack in Somalia since a truck bomb exploded at the same location in October 2017, killing more than 500 people.
The Somali government blamed the al-Shabab extremist group, which is linked to Al Qaeda and frequently attacks the capital. The group does not claim responsibility for its attacks when many civilians are killed.
The president, elected this year, said the country is still at war with Al Shabab “and we are winning.” The government and various militias have launched an offensive against the extremists, who control large parts of the country. The authorities have also increased pressure on the group’s financial network.
Illaahay idin kii, Oktoober kale ma dhicidoonto. Dalka dagaal buu ku jiraa,oo saacadan aan idin la hadlayo dagaal baa socda. Geesiyaasha Ciidamada Qalabka Sida ayaa da jooga Khawaarijta. pic.twitter.com/a5XT4lbv97
— Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (@HassanSMohamud) October 30, 2022
The extremists, who aspire to form an Islamic state, have assassinated clan leaders in retaliation in an apparent attempt to deter public support for the offensive.
The attack in Mogadishu came a day after a meeting of the president, the prime minister and other high-ranking officials to expand efforts against violent extremism and in particular against Al Shabab.
In hospitals and elsewhere, anxious relatives peered under plastic sheeting and in body bags for their loved ones.
“I couldn’t count the bodies on the ground because of the (number of) dead,” said Abdirazak Hassan, a witness to the event. The first explosion hit the wall of the Ministry of Education compound, he explained, where there were stalls for street vendors and currency exchange.
An Associated Press reporter at the scene said the second blast was outside a crowded restaurant at lunchtime. The blasts ripped apart bicycle taxis and other vehicles in an area of many restaurants and hotels.
The Somali Union of Journalists, citing colleagues and police, said one journalist had been killed and two others wounded in the second blast as they were rushing to the site of the first. The Aamin Ambulance Service said the second bomb had destroyed one of its aid vehicles.
— Abdulaziz Billow Ali (@AbdulBillowAli) October 29, 2022
The United States has described Al Shabab as one of al Qaeda’s deadliest organizations and has carried out dozens of airstrikes against it in recent years. Hundreds of US military personnel have returned to the country after former President Donald Trump ordered their withdrawal.
With information from AP.