At least one truck bomb detonated in downtown Mogadishu, causing massive damage and killing more than 230. Another 200 were wounded in the attack.
No one has claimed responsibility, but the AQ-affiliated Al-Shabab is suspected.
The blast destroyed multiple buildings and set several nearby cars and trucks ablaze. Abshir Abdi Ahmed, the deputy speaker of Somalia’s upper house of parliament, said the death death toll had reached 231. The total was confirmed by former security minister Abdirizak Omar Mohamed, who said more than 200 others were wounded.
Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire blamed the attack on the Somali militant group al-Shabab, which has not commented on the attack. The group has carried out a series of attacks in recent years aimed at establishing a radical Islamist state.
“They don’t care about the lives of Somali people, mothers, fathers and children,” Ali Khaire said. “They have targeted the most populated area in Mogadishu, killing only civilians.”
Somalia’s Sonna news agency said the attack apparently involved two bombs, although details of the blast remained unclear. The blast took place Saturday afternoon on a crowded street in the Hodan district, busy with shops, businesses and hotels in northwestern Mogadishu.
Residents were stunned by the enormity of the attack. Mogadishu’s mayor, Tabid Abdi Mohamed, urged residents and businesses that owned earth-moving equipment to bring it to the site of the bombing to aid in the desperate search for survivors — and bodies.
“In our 10-year experience as the first responder in #Mogadishu, we haven’t seen anything like this,” the Aamin Ambulance service tweeted Sunday.
Relatives of the dead and wounded rushed to hospitals overwhelmed with victims.
“There’s nothing I can say,” said Zainab Sharif, a mother of four who lost her husband, said outside the hospital where he was pronounced dead. “We have lost everything.”
Al-Shabab has never even attempted something this destructive before, but then, this being the single most devastating terror attack in Somali history, neither has anyone else. The terror group has ties to Al-Qaeda in Yemen, which has become stronger during the war between the Saudi-backed government and Houthi tribesmen. Might they have been involved?
Someone almost certainly was. This kind of attack could only be carried out by a handful of terrorist groups in the world, including ISIS. But Al-Shabab is at odds with ISIS and it’s doubtful they would work with them.
Mogadishu and Somalia are still in turmoil even after decades of starvation and civil war. The government has very shaky control over most of the country, which gives Al-Shabab pretty much of an open field to operate in. Perhaps it’s not so much a question of how this deadly attack could have happened, but rather why didn’t it happen sooner.