At least 100 people were confirmed dead and more than 300 injured in twin car bombings that hit the Somali capital Mogadishu on Saturday, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud confirmed Sunday.
“So far, the number of people who died has reached 100 and 300 are wounded, and the number for both the dead and wounded continues to increase,” he said after visiting the blast location.
Two cars packed with explosives blew up minutes apart near the busy Zobe intersection, followed by gunfire in an attack targeting Somalia’s Education Ministry.
The afternoon explosions tore through walls, and shattered windows of nearby buildings, sending shrapnel flying and plumes of smoke and dust into the air.
The victims included women, children, and the elderly, police spokesman Sadik Dudishe said.
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“The ruthless terrorists killed mothers. Some of them died with their children trapped on their backs,” he said Saturday, adding that the attackers had been stopped from killing more “innocent civilians and students.”
The attack took place at the same busy junction where a truck packed with explosives blew up on Oct. 14, 2017, killing 512 people and injuring more than 290, the deadliest attack in the troubled country.
Mohamud described the incident as “historic,” saying “it is the same place, and the same innocent people involved.”
“This is not right. God willing, they will not be having an ability to do another Zobe incident,” he said, referring to the terrorist group al-Shabab.
Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, saying its fighters were targeting the ministry of education.
The bloody siege drew international condemnation from Somalia’s allies, including the United Nations, Turkey as well as the African Union force tasked with helping Somali forces take over primary responsibility for security by the end of 2024.
The U.N. mission in Somalia UNSOM vowed to stand “resolutely with all Somalis against terrorism.”
“These attacks underline the urgency and critical importance of the ongoing military offensive to further degrade al-Shabab,” the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), which replaced the previous AMISOM peacekeeping force, said on Twitter late Saturday.
Al-Shabab has been seeking to overthrow the fragile foreign-backed government in Mogadishu for about 15 years.
Its fighters were driven out of the capital in 2011 by an African Union force but the group still controls swathes of the countryside and continues to wage deadly strikes on civilian and military targets.
In August, the group launched a 30-hour gun and bomb attack on the popular Hayat hotel in Mogadishu, killing 21 people and wounding 117.
Mohamud, who was elected in May, vowed after the August siege to wage “all-out war” on the terrorists.
In September, he urged citizens to stay away from areas controlled by terrorists, saying the armed forces and tribal militia were ratcheting up offensives against them.
Al-Shabab remains a potent force despite multinational efforts to degrade its leadership.
The group last week claimed responsibility for an attack on a hotel in the port city of Kismayo that killed nine people and wounded 47 others.
Somalia has been mired in chaos since the fall of president Siad Barre’s military regime in 1991.
His ouster was followed by a civil war and the ascendancy of al-Shabab.
As well as the insurgency, Somalia – like its neighbors in the Horn of Africa – is in the grip of the worst drought in more than 40 years. Four failed rainy seasons have wiped out livestock and crops.
The conflict-wracked nation is considered one of the most vulnerable to climate change but is particularly ill-equipped to cope with the crisis as it battles the deadly terrorist insurgency.
Türkiye condemns ‘heinous’ attacks
Türkiye earlier Saturday strongly condemned the “heinous” terrorist attacks.
“We are deeply saddened to learn that many people lost their lives and were injured in the terrorist attacks that took place today (29 October) in Mogadishu, Somalia,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry extended condolences to “the relatives as well as to the friendly and brotherly people” and its government and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.