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Tuesday 17 September 2019

Mogadishu hospitals overwhelmed by casualties after truck bombing

Somali security forces and others gather and search for bodies near destroyed buildings at the scene of Saturday's blast (AP)
Somali security forces and others gather and search for bodies near destroyed buildings at the scene of Saturday's blast (AP)

More than 300 people were killed in the weekend truck bombing in Somalia's capital and scores remain missing as the fragile Horn of Africa nation reeled from one of the world's worst attacks in years.

Mogadishu's Aamin Ambulance service tweeted that the death toll has risen to 302, citing different medical institutions.

As funerals continued, the government said the death toll is expected to rise.

Nearly 400 people were injured as Saturday's bombing targeted a crowded street in Mogadishu.

Somalia's government blamed the al Qaida-linked al-Shabab, although the Islamic extremist group has not claimed the attack.

A new statement by the SITE Intelligence Group said al-Shabab had posted claims of responsibility as recently as Monday for other attacks on Somali and African Union forces, but not for Saturday's blast.

Analysts still believe there is little doubt the Islamic extremist group carried out the bombing, one of the deadliest in sub-Saharan Africa.

"No other group in Somalia has the capacity to put together a bomb of this size, in this nature," said Matt Bryden, a security consultant on the Horn of Africa.

Nearly 70 people remain missing, based on accounts from relatives, said police Captain Mohamed Hussein. He said many bodies were burned to ashes in the attack.

More than 70 critically injured people were airlifted to Turkey for treatment as international aid began to arrive, officials said, as o verwhelmed hospitals in Mogadishu struggled to treat badly wounded victims, many burned beyond recognition.

Africa's deadliest Islamic extremist group, al-Shabab has waged war in Somalia for more than a decade, often targeting high-profile areas of the capital.

Earlier this year, it vowed to step up attacks after both the Trump administration and Somalia's recently elected Somali-American president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, announced new military efforts against the group.

After Saturday's attack, Mr Mohamed declared three days of mourning and joined thousands of people who responded to a plea by hospitals to donate blood.

Countries including Kenya and Ethiopia have offered to send medical aid in response to what Somali's government called a "national disaster", information minister Abdirahman Osman said.

A plane carrying a medical team from Djibouti arrived to evacuate the wounded, according to health ministry official Mohamed Ahmed. It was the second team of foreign doctors to arrive in Mogadishu.

Mogadishu, a city long accustomed to deadly bombings by al-Shabab, was stunned by the force of Saturday's blast. The explosion shattered hopes of recovery in an impoverished country left fragile by decades of conflict, and it again raised doubts over the government's ability to secure the seaside city of more than two million people.


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