This week another devastating attack hit Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. During the rush hour typical of the beginning of the week, a bomb-laden vehicle exploded at the control junction checkpoint, killing nearly 90 civilians and injuring many others. While no one has claimed responsibility for this act of terror, its resemblance to the October 2017 attack leads many to a certain conclusion. October 2017 saw one of the deadliest attacks in Somalia’s history; similar to this one, a vehicle exploded near a fuel tank which violently exploded which claimed the lives of nearly 600 civilians. The al Qaeda-linked group, al Shabab, claimed this attack, and therefore are assumed responsible for the one this week as well.
According to The Guardian, al Shabab was thought to have been dispelled from the Mogadishu area for nearly a decade now, but these frequent attacks have been challenging that thought. As of recent, they have been known to launch attacks that work to undermine the Somali government and security forces, both of which are backed by the United Nations and the African Union peacekeeping troops. The latter has started reducing their troops in Somalia since 2007, and there has been talk of further withdrawal of these two supporting units; on this, the Guardian reports, “the pace of attacks has raised concerns about the readiness of Somali forces to take over the country’s security, with control due to be transferred from an African Union force in the coming months.” There is a clear need for assistance of some sort, as Reuters reports this is the 20th vehicle-borne attack in 2019, an increase since last year.
The high traffic of these checkpoints often make them a popular target for such attacks. Not only are they frequently visited, but also the security forces thoroughly check vehicles for weapons and other explosives. Unfortunately, these densely populated lines become the ideal target for attack. The attack this past Saturday claimed the lives of dozens of innocent civilians. Among these were mostly university students, 17 police officers, and two Turkish nationals. It is clear by the devastating amount of fatalities that this was an incredibly violent attack. According to Reuters, 55-year-old Sabdow Ali heard the explosion and left his home to inquire what had happened. As he left his home, he entered the chaos and without much looking, he had already counted at least 13 people dead. Unfortunately the deaths spanned a much larger area than what his eye could see; the nearby hospital in Medina reported that they received over 100 wounded. As mentioned, many of those killed were students who were commuting back to the capital’s Banadir University. Death is always tragic, but the unexpected death of dozens of youth is something truly incomprehensible.
Al Jazeera illustrates the chaos and sorrow that ensued: “bodies lay on the ground amid the blackened skeletons of vehicles. At a hospital, families and friends picked through dozens of the dead, gingerly lifting sheets to peer at faces.” However, it also illustrated the bravery and courage that was sparked as it adds that hundreds of civilians began to donate blood in response to desperate need. Let us all look to these brave individuals who so perfectly demonstrate courage in the face of adversity as an example of what it means to be a good neighbor.
It is clear that violence in Somalia must cease. It is never acceptable for innocent human life to fall at the hands of violence and corruption, but especially never the lives of youth. It is urgent that this country receives support in the midst of these continued acts of terror.