- At least 100 were killed and 300 injured, the president said
- Saturday’s attack is the deadliest in years
- Al-Qaeda-linked al Shabaab claimed responsibility
MOGADISHU, Oct 30 (Reuters) – Two car bombs that exploded at Somalia’s education ministry next to a busy market intersection killed at least 100 people and wounded 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 intersection in October 2017, killing more than 500 people.
Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group al Shabaab claimed responsibility, saying the ministry was at the center of a “war on the mind” that taught Somali children using a Christian-based syllabus. Members of the security forces were among the dead and wounded, the statement emailed to the media said.
Al Shabaab, which seeks to overthrow the government and establish its own rule based on an extreme interpretation of Islamic law, has carried out frequent attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere.
The first of the explosions hit the Ministry of Education around 2 pm on Saturday. Second press minutes later when the ambulance arrived and people gathered to help the victims.
Mohamed Moalim, who owns a small restaurant near the intersection, said his wife, Fardawsa Mohamed, a mother of six, rushed to the scene after the first explosion to try to help.
“We failed to stop him,” he said. “He was killed by the second explosion.”
President Mohamud said some of the wounded were in serious condition and the death toll could rise.
“Our people who were slaughtered … included mothers with their children in their arms, fathers with medical conditions, students sent to study, businessmen who are fighting for the life of their families,” he said after visiting the crime scene.
The K5 intersection is usually full of people buying everything from food, clothing and water to foreign currency and khat, a mild narcotic leaf. But it was quiet on Sunday, with emergency workers still cleaning blood from streets and buildings.
Somalia’s international partners condemned the attack and sent condolences to the affected families.
“This senseless attack against innocent civilians including women and children only reminds us of the group’s barbarity against its own people and reveals the true hypocrisy of its intentions,” said the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, in a statement .
The chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, urged the international community to “redouble its efforts to ensure strong international support to Somalia’s institutions in their struggle to defeat terrorist groups”.
Director-General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted that his organization is ready to provide support to the government to care for the injured.
With support from 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 to his home in Britain.
“We recognize the number plate of the tuk tuk, which is now in ruins,” said Aden.
“Exhausted and desperate, we found his body last night at the hospital,” he said. “I can’t get the picture out of my mind.”
Additional reporting by Sabine Siebold in Berlin; The writing of Elias Biryabarema; Editing by William Mallard, Alexandra Zavis, Nick Macfie and Philippa Fletcher
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.