The most powerful bomb blast ever witnessed in Somalia’s capital killed 276 people with around 300 others injured, the country’s information minister said early Monday, making it the deadliest single attack in this Horn of Africa nation.
The toll was expected to rise further.
In a tweet, Abdirahman Osman called the attack “barbaric” and said countries including Turkey and Kenya had already offered to send medical aid.
Hospitals were overwhelmed a day after a truck bomb targeted a crowded street near key government ministries, including foreign affairs.
TRT World’s Caitlin McGee says Mogadishu’s Madina hospital is overwhelmed, packed with victims and family members after Saturday’s twin bombings.
Doctors struggled to assist horrifically wounded victims, many burnt beyond recognition. Officials feared the toll would continue to climb from Saturday’s truck bomb that targeted a busy street near key ministries. Sources for the death toll spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to reporters.
“In our 10-year experience as the first responder in #Mogadishu, we haven’t seen anything like this,” the Aamin Ambulance service tweeted.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declared three days of mourning and joined thousands of people who responded to a desperate plea by hospitals to donate blood for the wounded victims. “I am appealing all Somali people to come forward and donate,” he said.
“The hospital is overwhelmed by both dead and wounded. We also received people whose limbs were cut away by the bomb. This is really horrendous, unlike any other time in the past,” said Dr. Mohamed Yusuf, the director of Medina hospital.
Somalia’s government has blamed the Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabab group for the attack it called a “national disaster.” However, Al Shabab, which often targets high-profile areas of the capital with bombings, had yet to comment.
“They don’t care about the lives of Somali people, mothers, fathers and children,” Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said. “They have targeted the most populated area in Mogadishu, killing only civilians.”
Somalia’s information minister, Abdirahman Omar, said the blast was the largest the city had ever seen. “It’s a sad day. This how merciless and brutal they are, and we have to unite against them,” he said, speaking to the state-run radio station.
The United States joined the condemnation, saying “such cowardly attacks reinvigorate the commitment of the United States to assist our Somali and African Union partners to combat the scourge of terrorism.”
The US military has stepped up drone strikes and other efforts this year against Al Shabab, which is also fighting the Somali military and over 20,000 African Union forces in the country.
Saturday’s blast occurred two days after the head of the US Africa Command was in Mogadishu to meet with Somalia’s president, and two days after the country’s defense minister and army chief resigned for undisclosed reasons.