Death Toll Tops 200 in Pair of Somalia Blasts
Two blasts in Mogadishu came hours apart; Somalian president calls for more international support to fight Islamic militants
The death toll from twin bombings in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu climbed above 200 over the weekend, making it one of the deadliest attacks in the country since an Islamist insurgency started a decade ago.
A truck bomb exploded at a busy intersection on Saturday, ripping through several buildings, including hotels and government offices, the African Union Mission in Somalia said.
Hours later, a second explosion hit the suburb of Medina, setting dozens of vehicles on fire.
The two blasts killed at least 231 people, Abdirizak Mohamed, a member of Parliament and former minister of international security, said in a message on Twitter, citing the number of dead counted at two local hospitals he said he visited.
Officials said some 275 people had been injured in the attacks, which followed several months of relative calm in the capital.
The attacks came amid a renewed push from the U.S. to rid Somalia of al Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab militants.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo declared three days of mourning and called for more international support to fight the Islamic militants.
“Terrorism seeks to stop the light of our government,” Mr. Farmaajo said on Sunday, as he inspected the carnage at the scene of the first blast. “We must stand together and oppose terror.”
Emergency workers and police were digging through the rubble of flattened buildings in search of more victims. Hundreds of people waited in the hope of getting news about missing relatives, witnesses said.
At least five Red Crescent volunteers were among those killed in the blast.
The International Federation of the Red Cross warned the death toll could rise.
The U.S., which has stepped up drone attacks in Somalia this year, condemned the attacks.
“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 U.S. Embassy in Somalia said.
The attack came two days after the head of the U.S. Africa Command, Thomas Waldhauser, visited Mogadishu for a meeting with Mr. Farmaajo over the country’s security situation.
Al-Shabaab controlled Mogadishu and much of Somalia from 2007 until 2011, when the Islamic militants were driven out of the capital by African Union peacekeepers led by troops from Uganda and Burundi.
The militants have waged a guerrilla war from the countryside against Somalia’s United Nations-backed government.
“The cowardly act attests to the deliberate effort by al-Shabaab to deter progress being made by hardworking Somalis to stabilize their country,” said Lt. Col. Wilson Rono, a spokesman for the African Union’s peacekeeping mission in Somalia. “The barbaric attack points to a trend in which areas known for vibrant activity and thriving businesses are targeted.”