Mogadishu bomb blast toll soars to at least 276
The death toll from the most powerful bomb blast witnessed in Somalia's capital has soared to at least 276, with more than 300 injured.
Officials fear the toll will continue to climb from Saturday's truck bomb in Mogadishu that targeted a busy street near key government ministries.
Doctors struggled to assist horrifically wounded victims, many burned beyond recognition. "The hospital is overwhelmed by both dead and wounded," said Dr Mohamed Yusuf, the director of Medina hospital. "This is really horrendous, unlike any other time in the past."
Ambulance sirens echoed across the city as bewildered families wandered in the rubble of buildings, looking for missing relatives. "In our 10-year experience as the first responder in Mogadishu, we haven't seen anything like this," the Aamin Ambulance service tweeted.
"There's nothing I can say. We have lost everything," wept Zainab Sharif, a mother of four who lost her husband. She sat outside a hospital where he was pronounced dead after hours of efforts by doctors to save him.
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.
"I am appealing all Somali people to come forward and donate," he said.
Angry protesters gathered near the scene of the attack as Somalia's government blamed the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group for what it called a "national disaster".
However, al-Shabab, which often targets high-profile areas, had yet to comment.
"They don't care about the lives of Somali people, mothers, fathers and children," said Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire. "They have targeted the most populated area in Mogadishu, killing only civilians."
Rescue workers searched for survivors trapped under the rubble of the largely destroyed Safari Hotel, which is close to Somalia's foreign ministry. The explosion blew off metal gates and blast walls erected outside the hotel.
The US condemned the bombing, 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 United Nations special envoy to Somalia described the attack as "revolting".