US, Somalia continue targeting Al-Shabab terror group
President of Somalia has declared three days of national mourning and urged citizens to help those affected in the Saturday’s bombings in the capital Mogadishu killing at least 276 people and injuring over 300 others.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, posted a twitter message early Sunday, “We will observe three days of mourning for innocent victims, flags will be flown at half-mast. Time to unite and pray together. Terror won’t win.”
He also made appeal to the residents to help those affected by the attack. “I call on our citizens to come out, extend help, donate blood and comfort the bereaved. Let’s get through this together,” Mohamed said.
President Mohamed, a Somali-American, considered to be very close to US administration, had declared new offensive against the extremist group Al-Shabab earlier in April this year.
Meanwhile Abdirahman Osman, the Information Minister said on his twitter post that around 300 others were also wounded in the powerful explosion at a busy road junction. Destroying nearby homes and businesses and turned vehicles into burned wrecks.
Osman called the attack “barbaric” and said that number of countries including Turkey, Ethiopia and Kenya had already offered to provide medical assistance.
This was the deadliest blast in modern history of the country. The number of the casualties may rise as the rescuers continue to pull more bodies from the rubble, the information ministry said.
The first truck explosion destroyed dozens of stalls and the popular Safari Hotel in the heart of the city. The truck was reportedly packed with several hundred kilograms of military-grade and homemade explosives.
Sources close to Somalia government claimed that the truck had been stopped at a checkpoint and was about to be searched when the driver suddenly accelerated. It crashed into a barrier, and then exploded. This ignited a fuel tanker which was stationary nearby, multiplying the damages. It was considered to be aimed at Somalia’s foreign ministry.
According to Colonel Ahmed Hassan of Mogadishu police, the security forces had been tipped off about the vehicle carrying explosives and were pursuing it in the busy K5 district of the city when the explosion took place. The K5 district hosts several government buildings, restaurants and hotels.
Within two hours of the truck explosion, a suicide car explosion occurred in Madina district of the capital.
No group has claimed responsibility of the attacks so far. However, earlier this year Al-Shabab terror group had vowed to escalate attacks after both the Trump administration and Somalia’s recently elected president announced new military effort against the group.
The Al-Shabab, an Al-Qaeda linked terror group since 2011, follows Saudi propounded Wahabi ideology. It has carried out several deadly car bomb attacks in the city. In recent months, Al-Shabab has escalated its attacks in an effort to destabilise the new government of Mohamed.
The terror group had caused alarm in February 2016 when it claimed responsibility for the bombing of an airliner that made emergency landing with a gaping hole in the fuselage shortly after taking off from Mogadishu.
Mogadishu Mayor Thabit Abdi Mohammed went to the hospital for donating blood and appealed to all Somali people to come forward to donate blood. “I call on the Somali people to visit the city’s hospitals and donate blood. Please, come to the rescue of your brothers,” he said.
Several foreign missions in the vicinity were affected. Qatar Embassy was partly damaged, while its charg d’affairs suffered minor injuries. British ambassador to Somalia David Concar tweeted that the blast was audible from inside British Embassy.
Meanwhile Micheal Keating, special representative of the UN secretary general for Somalia, said he was appalled by the death toll and the scope of destruction. “The perpetrators struck a densely populated neighborhood of Mogadishu. They have killed an unprecedented number of civilians. It is a revolting attack both in terms of its intent and impact,” he said.
The attack came 48 hours after the resignations of the defence minister and country’s army chief without offering any explanation. Moreover US Africa command was in Mogadishu to meet Somalia’s president just two days before the bombings.
President Donald Trump has recently approved an expanded military role in Somalia which includes carrying out more aggressive airstrikes against Al-Shabab and considering parts of southern Somalia areas of active hostilities.
US military has stepped up drone strikes and other efforts this year against Al-Shabab. A US special force operative was killed in skirmish with the group earlier this year.
In April this year, The US military sent dozens of regular troops to Somalia, being the largest deployment in the country in two decades. It was reported that 40 troops were engaged to impart training to Somalia’s army.
In 1993, US had pulled out of Somalia, when two helicopters were shot down in Mogadishu. The bodies of the slain US soldiers were dragged through the streets.
Mogadishu, the Somalian capital which happens to be a large city on the east African coast, has witnessed high level of violence for years.
According to recent UN report, more than 3.1 million people in Somalia are threatened by famine because of the food shortages and violence.