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Death toll rises to 78 after truck bomb explodes during rush hour in Somali capital

Mayor Omar Mohamud Mohamed said that university students were among those killed.

Image: Farah Abdi Warsameh

THE DEATH TOLL after a truck bomb exploded at a busy security checkpoint in Somalia’s capital this morning has risen to 78.

It’s one of the deadliest attacks in Mogadishu in recent memory.

The toll was likely to rise as scores of people were rushed to hospitals, government spokesman Ismail Mukhtar told the Associated Press.

Dr. Mohamed Yusuf, director of Madina hospital, said they had received 73 bodies. The Aamin Ambulance service reported at least 78 dead and more than 50 wounded.

One witness said “this was a devastating incident because there were many people including students in buses who were passing by the area when the blast occurred.”

Mayor Omar Mohamud Mohamed, speaking at the scene, confirmed that university students were among those killed. Police said the dead also included two Turkish nationals.

Sakariye Abdukadir, who was near the area when the car bomb detonated, said: “All I could see was scattered dead bodies… amid the blast and some of them burned beyond recognition.”

Captain Mohamed Hussein said the blast targeted a tax collection centre during the morning rush hour as Somalia returned to work after its weekend. Images from the scene showed the mangled frames of vehicles and bodies lying on the ground.

somalia-blast A civilian who was wounded in suicide car bomb attack is helped at check point in Mogadishu. Source: Farah Abdi Warsameh

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab often carries out such attacks.

The extremist group was pushed out of Mogadishu several years ago but continues to target high-profile areas such as checkpoints and hotels in the seaside city.

Al-Shabab was blamed for a devastating truck bombing in Mogadishu in October 2017 that killed more than 500 people. The group never claimed responsibility for the blast that led to widespread public outrage.

Some analysts said al-Shabab didn’t dare claim credit as its strategy of trying to sway public opinion by exposing government weakness had badly backfired.

The latest attack again raises concern about the readiness of Somali forces to take over responsibility for the Horn of Africa country’s security in the coming months from an African Union force.

Al-Shabab, the target of a growing number of US airstrikes since President Donald Trump took office, controls parts of Somalia’s southern and central regions.

It funds itself with a “taxation” system that experts describe as extortion of businesses and travelers that brings in millions of dollars a year.

- with reporting from AFP 

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