Somali president says death toll to rise further after Saturday’s twin bombings that targeted the education ministry.
At least 100 people have been killed and 300 wounded in two car bomb explosions in the capital Mogadishu, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said.
Blaming the al-Shabab armed group for the attacks, Mohamud told reporters on Sunday that he expected the death toll from the twin blasts to rise further.
“Our people who were massacred … included mothers with their children in their arms, fathers who had medical conditions, students who were sent to study, businessmen who were struggling with the lives of their families,” the Somali leader said after visiting the site of the blast.
Authorities said the attack at the busy Sobe intersection on Saturday targeted the Somali education ministry and a school.
Sadiq Doodishe, a police spokesperson, told reporters that women, children and the elderly had been killed in the attack.
State news agency SONNA said independent journalist Mohamed Isse Kona was also killed.
The first explosion hit the ministry; then the second blast occurred as ambulances arrived and people gathered to help the victims, police officer Nur Farah told the Reuters news agency.
“I was 100 meters away when the second blast occurred,” witness Abdirazak Hassan told The Associated Press news agency. “I couldn’t count the bodies on the ground due to the [number of] fatalities.” He said the first blast hit the perimeter wall of the education ministry, where street vendors and money changers plied their trade.
A Reuters journalist near the blast site said the two explosions occurred within minutes of each other and smashed windows in the vicinity. Blood from victims of the blasts covered the tarmac just outside the building, he said.
Moments after the blasts, a large plume of smoke rose over the site.
The Aamin ambulance service said on Saturday that they had collected at least 35 wounded people. One ambulance responding to the first attack was destroyed by the second blast, director Abdulkadir Adan added in a tweet.
A driver and a first aid worker were wounded, he said.
The United Nations Mission in Somalia condemned Saturday’s “vicious attack” and extended its condolences to the families of the victims. Turkey condemned the “heinous” attack, while Qatar – firmly rejecting violence and “terrorism” – expressed its condolences and wished the wounded a speedy recovery.
The explosions occurred in the same location as Somalia’s largest bombing in October 2017, which killed more than 500 people. In that bombing, a truck bomb exploded outside a busy hotel at the K5 intersection, which is lined with government offices, restaurants and kiosks.
Al-Qaeda-allied al-Shabab, which has been fighting in Somalia for more than a decade, is seeking to topple the central government and establish its own rule based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law.
The group uses a campaign of bombings both in Somalia and elsewhere, and targets have included military installations as well as hotels, shopping centres, and busy traffic areas.
In August, at least 20 people were killed and dozens wounded when al-Shabab fighters stormed the Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu, triggering a 30-hour standoff with security forces before the siege was finally ended.
Mohamud, with support from the United States and allied local militias, has launched an offensive against the group, although results have been limited.