The most powerful bomb blast in Somalia’s capital has killed 276 people and wounded 300 others, the country’s information minister said on Tuesday, making it the only deadly attack in the Horn of Africa nation.
The toll could continue to rise.
In a tweet, Abdirahman Osman described the attack as “barbaric” and said countries like Turkey and Kenya had already offered to send medical aid. Hospitals were overwhelmed a day after a truck bomb headed into a crowded street near major government ministries, including foreign affairs.
As angry protesters gathered near the site of the attack, the Somali government blamed the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group for what it called a “national disaster.” However, Africa’s deadliest Islamic extremist group, which often targets high-profile areas of the capital, has yet to comment.
Al-Shabab earlier this year promised to step up attacks after both the Trump government and Somalia’s newly elected president announced new military efforts against the group.
The Mogadishu bombing is one of the deadliest attacks in sub-Saharan Africa, larger than the attack on Garissa University in Kenya in 2015 and the attacks of the United States Embassy in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
Doctors at Mogadishu Hospitals battled to help severely injured victims, many of them burned beyond recognition. “This is really horrendous, unlike any other time in the past,” said Dr. Mohamed Yusuf, the director of the Medina hospital.
Inside, dark-eyed nurses were carrying a man whose legs had been kicked out. He waited while the surgeons attended another seriously injured patient. The exhausted doctors struggled to keep their eyes open, as the cries of the victims and the newly disconsolate families echoed in the corridors.
“Almost all injured victims have serious injuries,” said nurse Samir Abdi. “Unspeakable horrors.” The smell of blood was strong.
Hawo Yusuf, with watery eyes, looked at her husband’s severely burned body. “He can die waiting,” he said. “We need help.”
Ambulance sirens echoed through the city as bewildered families wandered among the debris of the buildings, searching for missing relatives. “In our 10-year experience as the first responder in #Mogadishu, we have not seen anything like this,” Aamin’s Ambulance service tweeted.