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Scores dead in Mogadishu car bomb

December 28, 2019

A car bomb exploded at a busy security checkpoint in Somalia's capital, killing scores of people. The city has suffered regular terrorist attacks in recent years.

A soldier stands guard stands at the scene of a car bomb explosion at a checkpoint in Mogadishu
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/AP/F.A. Warsameh

At least 78 people were killed in Mogadishu on Saturday when a car bomb was detonated at a busy security and taxation checkpoint in the Somali capital.

Some officials put the death toll at 90, with Mogadishu Mayor Omar Muhamoud telling reporters that the exact number was not yet known.

"We will confirm the exact number of the dead later, but it is not going to be small," he said, adding that most of those killed were university students and other civilians. Aamin Ambulance service director Abdiqadir Abdulrahman added that at least 125 people were wounded in the blast.

Two of the people killed were Turkish nationals, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Twitter.

Security official Abdulahi Adan told AFP news agency the blast came from a suicide bomb in a truck.

"Dozens of injured people were screaming for help, but the police immediately opened fire and I rushed back to my house," a witness told Reuters news agency.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack, saying in a statement that "the perpetrators of this horrendous crime must be brought to justice."

An ambulance leaves from the scene of a car bomb explosion at a checkpoint in Mogadishu
A minibus full of university students was reportedly among the victimsImage: Reuters/F. Omar

No one immediately claimed responsibility, though similar attacks are regularly carried out by the al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group al-Shabaab, which wants to topple the United Nations-backed government in Somalia.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed condemned the attack as a "heinous act of terror" and pinned the blame on al-Shabaab.

"This enemy works to implement the destructive will of international terrorism; they have never done anything positive for this our country, they have not constructed a road, never built hospitals and not education centers as well," he said in comments carried by the Somali national news agency SONNA. "All they do is destruction and killing, and the Somali public are well informed about this."

Local journalist Abdulaziz Billow told DW the attack bore all the hallmarks of the group's attacks. He said it was the deadliest attack so far this year. Billow said the victims included university students, other civilians and security personnel. 

The extremist group was forced out of the capital city several years ago but continues to target high-profile areas such as checkpoints and hotels. Two weeks ago, the group attacked a hotel popular with politicians, army officers and diplomats, killing five people. 

Somalia has suffered through violent conflict since 1991, after clan warlords overthrew dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other.

In recent months, the government has claimed that the security situation has improved, with increased security personnel and surveillance.

rs, aw/sms (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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