Friday 14 December 2018

Thousands march over 'Somalia's '9/11'

Protesters gather at the stadium Koonis in Mogadishu during a demonstration against Al-Shabaab militant group after last weekend's explosion in the Hodan district. Photo: Reuters
Protesters gather at the stadium Koonis in Mogadishu during a demonstration against Al-Shabaab militant group after last weekend's explosion in the Hodan district. Photo: Reuters

Abdi Guled

Somali intelligence officials have shared an account of the country's deadliest attack, while thousands marched yesterday in a show of defiance against the extremist group blamed for a truck bombing that left more than 300 dead.

Two people have been arrested over Saturday's attack that was meant to target Mogadishu's heavily fortified international airport, where several countries have their embassies, the officials said.

Somalia's president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has urged the long-fractured African nation to unite.

Wearing red headbands, a crowd gathered at a Mogadishu stadium and shouted slogans against al-Shabab, which has long targeted the city, but has not commented on the attack.

Some in Somalia have called the bombing their "9/11", asking why one of the world's deadliest attacks in years had not drawn more global attention. Nearly 400 others were wounded.

At least three people, including a pregnant woman, were hurt after security forces opened fire while trying to disperse protesters, said police.

Analysts have suggested that al-Shabab may have avoided taking responsibility because it did not want to be blamed for the deaths of so many civilians.

According to a Somali intelligence official, an overloaded truck covered with a tarpaulin approached a security checkpoint outside Mogadishu.

Suspicions

The truck aroused the suspicions of soldiers who ordered the driver to park and get out. He made a phone call and passed the phone to the soldiers to speak to a well-known man who vouched for the truck and persuaded soldiers to allow it into the city, the official said.

Once through the checkpoint, the truck began to speed and raced through another checkpoint where soldiers opened fire and flattened one of its tyres.

The driver continued before stopping on a busy street and detonating. The blast levelled nearly all nearby buildings in one of Mogadishu's most crowded areas.

The man who vouched for the truck has been arrested.

The truck bomber had an accomplice driving a minivan packed with explosives that took another route, said another intelligence official.

The minivan driver is in custody in Mogadishu.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News