A truck rigged with explosives detonated in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, on Saturday October 14. At least 500 people were killed or seriously injured in the blast.
On Sunday, October 15, the death toll stood at 276. That number is expected to rise as bodies are uncovered from the rubble that covers an area hundreds of metres wide in central Mogadishu. Rescue workers added that the intense heat from the explosion destroyed the remains of many people, leaving an exact death toll difficult to establish.
This is the deadliest attack in Somalia since al-Shabaab, the Islamist terrorist group, launched its insurgency in 2007.
The attack was reportedly targeting Somalia’s foreign ministry. Sources close to the government told the Guardian that the truck had been stopped at a nearby checkpoint. It was about to be searched when the driver accelerated, driving through a barrier and causing the truck to explode. It ignited a nearby fuel tanker, creating a devastating fireball.
Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declared three days of national mourning. He and thousands of others lined up on Sunday in Mogadishu to donate blood, after hospitals issued a desperate plea.
Mohamed came to power in February with a campaign to rid Somalia of al-Shabaab. In response, the group has escalated its attacks to destabilize his government. While no group has taken responsibility for the bomb, al-Shabaab has a history of similar attacks.
Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire condemned the attackers for targeting a busy area, killing only civilians. One expert working with the Somali government said, due to the unintended proximity of the fuel tanker, it is likely that not even the attackers anticipated the scale of the destruction.
Mohamed Yusuf Hassan, director of the Madina Hospital, was shocked by the devastation. He told the BBC, “what happened yesterday was incredible, I have never seen such a thing before, and countless people lost their lives. Corpses were burned beyond recognition.”
Hundreds of people were transported to nearby hospitals, many in critical condition, while hundreds more may be trapped in the rubble now littering central Mogadishu.
A local businessman, Alinur Abdi, commented, “there is nothing resilient about this. How can you say ‘we are resilient’ when people are being killed in their hundreds? We need to get our act together and find a solution for this madness.”
The international community has been quick to condemn the attack, promising to ramp up commitments to fighting al-Shabaab.
Somalia has been considered an extremely fragile, if not, failed state for the past decade. Insurgent violence represents one of many painful challenges to restoring order in the country. Solutions, like Abdi said, will require more than just words.
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