Al-Shabaab claim Mogadishu bomb
The suicide attack is the most devastating since the al-Qaida-linked group withdrew from Mogadishu in August
A suicide truck bomb has exploded outside a compound housing government buildings in Mogadishu, killing at least 65 people and maiming scores in one of the most devastating attacks claimed by al-Shabaab insurgents since they withdrew most of their forces from the Somali capital.
The explosion ripped through the K4 (Kilometre Four) area of Mogadishu, which is under the control of government troops and African Union peacekeeping forces. Many of those killed and injured were students and parents waiting for exam results at the Ministry of Higher Education. Buildings were destroyed and rescue workers struggled to free people trapped in the debris while the walking wounded made their way to the battered city's hospitals. News reports said students had gathered inside the compound to take exams.
"We have carried 65 dead bodies and 50 injured people," the ambulance co-ordinator Ali Muse told Reuters. "Some are still lying there. Most of the people have burns."
A Reuters reporter said scores of people with burns were walking to a nearby hospital and police were trying to evacuate more students trapped inside the damaged buildings.
The Somali government put the death toll at 15 with more than 20 injured from the suicide bombing.
"The casualties are mostly students and parents who were waiting for results of scholarships from the Ministry of Higher Education," the government said in a statement.
"The attack shows that the danger from terrorists is not yet over and that there are obviously still people who want to derail the advances that the Somali people have made towards," it said.
Lieutenant Colonel Paddy Ankunda, a spokesman for the African Union peacekeeping force Amisom, which has 9,000 troops in the country, said the explosion had been caused by a suicide vehicle bomb, but that he had no definite figures yet on casualties.
"We have conflicting reports. Some people are still lying under the debris because buildings fell down … we are trying to pull them out. Amisom has sent excavators," he told the Guardian by phone.
Al-Shabaab, which is linked to al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the blasts, Reuters reported. The group, which is fighting the weak Transitional Federal Government, pulled most of its fighters out of Mogadishu in early August but threatened to carry out attacks on government installations.
"This is the biggest attack since al-Shabaab was defeated," said Ankunda. "This was expected because we knew they would go more into this kind of attack, including suicide attacks," he said.
Asked what Amisom's response would be, he said: "Vigilance. We need more vigilance."
A Somali living in Nairobi, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described what he had heard about the blast.
"My house is in K6, which is 1km from the bombing, and all the glass windows are shattered so that tells you how strong the blast was," he said.
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