Mogadishu (dpa) – it was probably the deadliest attack in somalia’s recent history: at least 231 people were said to have been killed when a suicide bomber in a truck blew himself up on saturday at one of the busiest intersections in somalia’s capital mogadishu.
This is what police official ali hassan kulmiye told the german press agency. "The destruction looks like after an earthquake," eyewitness ahmed hassan describes the attack site. Buildings partially collapsed, victims buried under mountains of rubble. "I have never seen such a bad attack," said hassan.
Initially, no one claimed responsibility for the cruel act. But suspicion fell, as it so often does, on the extremist al-shabaab militia, which has terrorized the country on the horn of africa for years. Information minister abdirahman yarisow blamed sunni fundamentalists for the devastating attack.
The attacker chose one of the busiest intersections in the city. At the intersection, cars and buses are always stuck in traffic jams, passers-by walk along the roadside, and people crowd into hotels, stores and restaurants. The safari hotel, popular with government officials, journalists and somalis on home leave abroad, is not far from the site of the attack.
The assailant was driving a truck at high speed along a road, rolling over or pushing out of the way motorcycles and cars stuck in the traffic jam, eyewitnesses said. Safety forces had still tried to blame the driver. He nevertheless reached the intersection and blew himself up there with the truck.
"There was blood everywhere," said eyewitness abdiasis qorane. His car was one of more than a hundred vehicles burned out by the explosion. "I could see body parts everywhere," he recalled. Windows were still breaking hundreds of meters away, doors were torn from their hinges. Rescue workers were still recovering people from the trauma on sunday, said police officer mohamed dahir.
The medical facilities of the city were completely overloaded in view of the high number of victims. One of mogadishu’s grossest hospitals, madina hospital, paid at least 221 deaths, as confirmed by its director mohamed yusuf. Most of the dead are civilians, he had previously said. Erdogan hospital spoke of another ten killed. The death toll could rise even higher: more than 300 people were injured, said police official kulmiye.
Somalia’s president mohamed abdullahi mohamed urged citizens to donate blood for the injured on state radio. The attack is a national tragedy, he said. Head of state declared three-day national mourning, flags flown at half-mast across country.
Assistance was offered to somalia from abroad. Turkey wanted to send a military plane with medical aid to mogadishu on sunday, tweeted the spokesman of state president recep tayyip erdogan, ibrahim kalin. The plane will also take injured to turkey for treatment. Kalin and the african union (AU) strongly condemned the attack in mogadishu.
Somalia knows a thing or two about bloody tragedies. Since 1991, the country on the horn of africa seems to be stuck in a cycle of violence, flight and hunger. The al shabaab militia is fighting for supremacy in the country and wants to establish a so-called god state with a strict interpretation of islamic law (sharia). Although the extremists were driven out of the capital in 2011. But peace and stability are not in sight – despite a 20,000-strong peacekeeping force of AU. Al-shabaab has also repeatedly carried out attacks in neighboring countries.
AU commission chair moussa faki mahamat called on international community to strengthen support for somalia in fight against terror groups. "It is now clear that without adequate support for somalia, much of the progress made in the security situation over the past few years could be reversed," hailed.