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Somalia: More than 230 killed in massive truck bomb blast in Mogadishu

Sunday 15 October 2017, by siawi3

Source: http://www.latimes.com/world/africa/la-fg-somalia-blast-20171015-story.html

More than 230 killed in massive truck bomb blast in Mogadishu, Somalia’s worst-ever bomb attack

Hundreds of Somalis marched in the streets of Mogadishu on Sunday to protest a deadly blast that killed more than 230 people in a busy shopping district in the country’s deadliest single bomb attack.

More than 370 were people were reported injured in the attack, when a truck carrying explosives detonated Saturday in a crowded street packed with cars and pedestrians, near government ministries and hotels.

Demonstrators Sunday included many women in flowing gowns, protesting an attack that the Somali government blamed on Shabab, the Al-Qaeda-linked Somali extremist group that has carried out many similar attacks in the past. No one had claimed responsibility for the attack.

The death toll rose sharply Sunday as bodies were recovered, many of them burned in cars and nearby buildings.

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” Mohamed said the attack showed Somalia’s enemies cared nothing for human lives.

"Today’s horrific attack proves our enemy would stop [at] nothing to cause our people pain and suffering. Let’s unite against terror,” he tweeted. The president declared three days of mourning and called on citizens to donate blood as hospitals struggled to save critically injured civilians.

After Mohamed visited Medina Hospital on Sunday morning to give blood and comfort victims, hundreds more Somalis flocked to hospitals to donate blood.

Relatives of missing people arrived at hospitals Sunday desperate for news of loved ones. Others wandered around the ruins of buildings hit by the blast.

Many of the dead had not been identified, with dozens burned beyond recognition.

Somali soldiers patrol the scene of the truck bomb in Mogadishu. (Mohamed Abdiwahab / AFP/Getty Images)

“There’s nothing I can say. We have lost everything,” a weeping Zainab Sharif told the Associated Press. A mother of four who lost her husband, she sat outside a hospital where he was pronounced dead after hours of efforts by doctors to save him from an arterial injury. Among those killed were four Somali Red Crescent Society volunteers, according to the organization.

A freelance journalist was also killed, according National Union of Somali Journalists Secretary General Mohamed Moalimuu.

The U.S. has stepped up drone attacks on Shabab leaders in recent months but the organization has proven resilient, nimble and adaptable. It has lost territory and a string of leaders but still retains the capacity to mount regular attacks in the capital such as Saturday’s blast, often targeting hotels and restaurants, particularly those popular with government officials and journalists.

It also carries out daily assassinations and drive-by shootings, often targeting government employees.

Shabab emerged in 2006 as an offshoot of the Islamic Courts Union and managed to gain control of much of the country, including Mogadishu. In 2011 African Union forces and Somali troops managed to drive Shabab out of the capital, but the group still retains territory, particularly in the south of the country.

A local media organization, Goobjoog News, sent reporters to all of Mogadishu’s main hospitals and reported that 237 people had died and 374 were injured. The report was consistent with information from a former interior minister and lawmaker, Abdirizak Mohamed, who visited two hospitals which reported 231 dead and 207 injured.

With Mogadishu hospitals overwhelmed, the Turkish government sent a plane to evacuate patients to Turkey for medical treatment.

The blast was detonated near the entrance of the Safari Hotel. One of Shabab’s common tactics is to attack hotels, blasting through the main entrance with a vehicle bomb and following up with attacks by gunmen going from floor to floor, executing people.

Despite a blast wall, the hotel was shattered into piles of rubble.

Aamin Ambulance, a free community ambulance service, transported 250 injured people and 75 dead. “In our 10-year experience as the first responder in Mogadishu, we haven’t seen anything like this,” the ambulance service tweeted, posting photos of devastation from the scene.

The U.S. government condemned the “cowardly” attack.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the families of those who perished and wish a speedy recovery to individuals injured in the blasts. The United States lauds the heroic response of the Somali security forces and first responders and Somali citizens who rushed to the aid of their brothers and sisters,” the U.S. mission to Somalia, based in Kenya, said in a statement.

“Such cowardly attacks reinvigorate the commitment of the United States to assist our Somali and African Union partners to combat the scourge of terrorism to promote stability and prosperity for the Somali people and their regional neighbors,” the statement said.

The United Nations special representative on Somalia, Michael Keating, also expressed disgust at the attack.

“I am shocked and appalled by the number of lives that were lost in the bombings and the scale of destruction they caused,” he said. “Our deepest condolences go to the families and friends of the dead, and our thoughts are with the injured and all those affected.

“The perpetrators struck a densely populated neighborhood of Mogadishu. They have killed an unprecedented number of civilians. It is a revolting attack both in terms of its intent and impact. All Somalis must unite to condemn and repulse this kind of violent extremism,” Keating said.