- At least 100 killed and 300 injured, according to the president
- Saturday’s attack is the deadliest in years
- Al-Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab claims responsibility
MOGADISHU, Oct 30 (Reuters) – Two car bombs that exploded at Somalia’s education ministry next to a busy road junction have killed at least 100 people and injured 300, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said on Sunday. , warning that the death toll could rise.
Saturday’s attack was the deadliest since a truck bomb exploded at the same junction in October 2017, killing more than 500 people.
Al-Shabaab-linked Islamist group al-Qaeda claimed responsibility, saying the ministry was at the center of a “war on the minds” that teaches Somali children using a Christianity-based curriculum. Members of the security forces were among the dead and injured, according to his statement emailed to the media.
Al Shabaab, which seeks to overthrow the government and establish its own regime based on an extreme interpretation of Islamic law, frequently stages attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere.
The first of explosions hit the Ministry of Education around 2 p.m. Saturday. The second struck minutes later when ambulances arrived and people gathered to help the victims.
Mohamed Moalim, owner of a small restaurant near the intersection, said his wife, Fardawsa Mohamed, a mother of six, rushed to the scene after the first blast to try to help.
“We failed to stop it,” he said. “She was killed by the second explosion.”
President Mohamud said some of the injured were in serious condition and the death toll could rise.
“Our people who were slaughtered… included mothers with their children in their arms, fathers who had health problems, students who were sent to study, businessmen who were fighting for the lives of their families,” he said after visiting the premises.
The K5 intersection is normally packed with people buying and selling everything from food, clothing and water to foreign currency and khat, a sweet narcotic leaf. But it was quiet on Sunday, with rescuers still cleaning blood from the streets and buildings.
Somalia’s international partners condemned the attack and sent their condolences to the affected families.
“These senseless attacks on innocent civilians, including women and children, only serve to remind us of the group’s barbarism towards its own people and reveal the true hypocrisy of its intentions,” said the foreign policy chief of the European Union, Josep Borrell, in a press release.
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, urged the international community to “redouble efforts to ensure strong international support for Somali institutions in their fight to defeat terrorist groups”.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted that his organization stood ready to support the government in treating the injured.
With the support of the United States and allied local militias, the president launched an offensive against the group, although the results were limited.
Abdullahi Aden said his friend, Ilyas Mohamed Warsame, was killed while traveling in his three-wheeled ‘tuk tuk’ taxi to see relatives before returning home to Britain.
“We recognized the license plate of the tuk tuk, which was now in rubble,” Aden said.
“Exhausted and desperate, we found her body last night at midnight at the hospital,” he said. “I can’t get the image out of my head.”
Additional reporting by Sabine Siebold in Berlin; Written by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by William Mallard, Alexandra Zavis, Nick Macfie and Philippa Fletcher
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.