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Mogadishu bomb attack kills 70 people

“It is the most awful tragedy I have ever seen,” a doctor dealing with the stream of maimed and dead being brought to hospital in Mogadishu has told the media.

A wounded man stands at the scene of an explosion in Mogadishu, Somalia, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011.
A wounded man stands at the scene of an explosion in Mogadishu, Somalia, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011.
Image: AP Photo/Mohamed Sheikh Nor

ISLAMIST MILITANTS DETONATED a truck bomb in front of the education ministry in Somalia’s capital today, killing at least 70 people and wounding dozens, a rescue official said. Among the dead were students and parents.

It was the biggest attack in Somalia’s capital since the al-Qaeda-linked group known as al-Shabab withdrew most of its forces in August amid an offensive by African Union forces and as a famine gripped much of the country.

The truck blew up after coming to a halt at a security checkpoint at the entrance to the Ministry of Education, said Ali Hussein, a police officer in Mogadishu. After the thunderous blast, blackened corpses were sprawled on the debris-strewn street amid burning vehicles. Uniformed soldiers dragged the wounded from the hellish scene.

Ali Abdullahi, a nurse at Medina hospital said they were treating people with horrific wounds, including amputated limbs, burns, and patients who had been blinded.

“It is the most awful tragedy I have ever seen,” he said. “Imagine dozens are being brought here minute by minute. Most of the wounded people are unconscious and others have their faces blackened by smoke and heat.”

Ali Muse, the chief of Mogadishu’s ambulance service, said that at least 70 people had died and at least 42 others were wounded.

“The explosion has not only affected the targeted place, but even passer-by people and car passengers died there. The death toll may increase and we are still carrying many dead bodies” he said.

In a statement, the government gave a death toll of 15. It was not immediately clear if it was an early count.

“The casualties are mostly students and parents who were waiting for results of scholarships from the Ministry of Higher Education,” the government said. “The attack shows that the danger from terrorists is not yet over and that there are obviously still people, who want to derail the advances that the Somali people have made towards peace.”

Al-Shabab immediately claimed responsibility for the attack on a website it uses.

“Our Mujahideen fighters have entered a place where ministers and AMISOM foreigners stay,” al-Shabab said in a brief post on a website, referring to the Ugandan and Burundian forces who make up the African Union peacekeeping mission.

Suicide bombings were unheard of in Somalia before 2007 but have become increasingly frequent. Al-Shabab claims allegiance to al-Qaeda, which often uses car bombs and appears bent on gaining a greater foothold in the Horn of Africa.

Al-Shabab includes militant veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts who have trained Somalis in tactics like suicide bombs and sniper fire, and until recently hosted the most wanted al-Qaeda operative in Africa. The fugitive Fazul Abdallah Mohammed, al-Qaeda’s top operative in East Africa was killed by a Somali government Soldier at roadblock in June.

Mohammed was mastermind behind the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Al-Shabab carried out a double suicide bombing in Uganda in July 2010 that killed 76 people watching the World Cup final on television. Americans of Somali heritage also have joined the group.

In 2009, a suicide bomber attacked a university graduation ceremony in Mogadishu, killing 24 people, including three government ministers, medical students and doctors.

Somalia has endured mostly anarchy for the last two decades. The nation is gripped by famine, which is mostly affecting southern parts of the country controlled by al-Shabab. The UN estimates tens of thousands have died in Somalia and nearby countries from the famine and that 750,000 people are in danger of dying over the next few months.

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Associated Press

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