At least 34 people have been killed and more than 50 got injured in a powerful car bomb blast at a marketplace in the western part of Mogadishu (Capital of Somalia) on Sunday (Feb 19), a police officer has said. The powerful explosion was the first major attack in the Somali capital since Somalia’s new president was elected on February 8 and highlighting the security challenges that Somalia’s new government faces.
Somalia’s new president, Mohamed Abdulahi Mohamed, visited victims in hospital wounded by the explosion and he offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those who planned the blast.
The powerful blast, which ripped through shops and food stalls in Mogadishu’s Madina district on Sunday. The explosion by a car bomb parked near a restaurant went off at a busy time when shoppers and traders were gathered inside the market, said district commissioner Ahmed Abdulle. “Someone had parked the car here and left before it was detonated,” said Mohamed Haji, a butcher who suffered shrapnel wounds, pointing his finger at a clothes shop devastated by the blast. Pieces of wood and metal sheets on the ground were all that remained of the shop.
Many of the dead were carried away by their relatives soon after the blast, Police Captain Mohamed Hussein said. “It was a horrific and barbaric attack only aimed at killings civilians,” he said from the scene of the blast.
Sabriye Abdullahi, an ambulance driver told The Associated Press that some of the serious injured people had died on their way to the hospitals. The death toll is feared to rise further, as many of the wounded victims had suffered critical injuries.
“Many of them suffered extensive third degree burns and others were burned beyond recognition,” he said.
Women screamed and sobbed outside the market, shocked and lamenting onlookers watched as rescue workers were desperately tried to move the bloodied bodies and wounded victims into ambulances.
Ali Mire, a government soldier who was helping a friend with shrapnel wounds, said, “It’s a painful carnage.”
Although no group has yet claimed responsibility for the blast. However, Somalia’s home-grown Islamist insurgent group, al-Shabab, is likely to be the prime suspects and often carry out such attacks. The group has been driven out of large parts of Central and South Somalia, the extremist rebels continue to carry out guerrilla attacks throughout the country, especially in the capital.
A few hours before the blast, al-Shabab despised the newly elected President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed as an “apostate”. On Saturday, a senior al-Shabab commander vowed to target the president’s supporters and continue fighting against his government. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed condemned the car blast in a Twitter post, by saying that it shows the “cruelty” of al-Shabab.