At least 100 killed in Saturday’s attack in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia (HPD) — At least 100 people were killed in two car bomb explosions at a bustling intersection in Somalia’s capital on Saturday and the number could rise, the country’s president said Sunday.

Nearly 300 people were injured, the president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, told reporters at the scene of the incident. “We ask our international partners and Muslims around the world to send their doctors here, because we cannot send all the victims out of the country for treatment,” he said.

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 Al-Shabab extremist group, linked to Al Qaeda and which frequently attacks the capital, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was aimed at the Education Ministry. The group, which controls large parts of the country, claimed that the ministry was an “enemy base” that receives support from non-Muslim countries and “is committed to removing Somali children from the Islamic faith.”

Al Shabab does not usually claim responsibility for its attacks when many civilians are killed, as was the case in the 2017 attack, but it has been angered by a major government crackdown that also goes after its financial network. The group said it will continue to fight until the country is governed by Islamic law and called on civilians to stay away from government areas.

The president, elected this year, said the country is still at war with Al Shabab “and we are winning.”

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.

The extremists, who aspire to form an Islamic state, have assassinated prominent clan leaders in retaliation, in an apparent attempt to erode public support for the offensive.

The attack overwhelmed emergency services in Somalia, which after decades of conflict has one of the world’s most fragile health systems. In hospitals and elsewhere, anxious relatives peered under plastic sheeting and into body bags to search for their loved ones.

Halima Duwane was looking for her uncle, Abdullahi Jama. “We don’t know if he’s alive or dead, but the last time we communicated he was around here,” she said through tears.

Witnesses to the attack were shocked. “I couldn’t count the bodies on the ground because of the (number of) dead,” said Abdirazak Hassan. 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.

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.

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