Truck bomb kills scores including many students in Mogadishu

The ObserverSomalia

At least 79 dead and more than 100 injured after morning rush-hour blast in Somali capital

Play Video 1:01 Aftermath of fatal truck bomb explosion in Mogadishu - video

A truck bomb has exploded in central Mogadishu, killing at least 79 people including many university students, and injuring more than 100 in the deadliest attack on the Somali capital for more than two years. The bomber struck during the Saturday morning rush hour, the start of Somalia's working week. The mayor, Omar Mohamud Mohamed, told reporters at the blast site that most of those killed were civilians, including two Turkish citizens.

Somali police chief Abdi Hassan Mohamed told reporters that the "devastating" circumstances had made it hard to establish the number of casualties. "Now we can elaborate on the death toll which stands 79 at the moment and the wounded are 100 plus," he said. "There can be one or two more people who may be dead." The attack targeted a busy area where a security checkpoint had caused a traffic bottleneck, resulting in high casualty levels.

"I saw many dead bodies lying on the ground," a witness, Mohamed Abdi Hakim, said. "Some of those dead were police officers, but most of them were students." People rushed to hospitals to search for missing family and friends, searching the wards then looking at dozens of bodies.

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There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the extremist group al-Shabaab has carried out similar attacks in the past. The al-Qaida-linked group was pushed out of Mogadishu nearly a decade ago, but it launches regular attacks on high-profile targets in the city.

This year alone it has targeted a shopping mall, the city mayor's office and high-end hotels. Saturday's bomb came two weeks after a hotel siege that lasted hours and left five people dead. The pace of attacks has raised concerns about the readiness of Somali forces to take over the country's security, with control due to be transferred from an African Union force in the coming months.

This year, UN experts monitoring sanctions on Somalia said al-Shabaab was now able to make its own explosives - its weapon of choice. The terrorist group had previously relied on military-grade explosives captured during attacks on an African Union peacekeeping force. The group was blamed for the deadliest single attack in the country's history, in October 2017, when a truck bomb exploded next to a fuel tanker in Mogadishu, creating a fire-storm that killed nearly 600 people.

Al-Shabaab never claimed responsibility.

It also did not claim to be behind a 2009 suicide bombing of a graduation ceremony for medical students, which sparked a major public backlash.

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