MOGADISHU (Reuters) – An explosion at a bustling checkpoint in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Saturday killed at least 61 people and wounded dozens, an ambulance service official said, the latest in a string of deadly attacks.
An ambulance leaves from the scene of a car bomb explosion at a checkpoint in Mogadishu, Somalia December 28, 2019. REUTERS/Feisal Omar
Rescuers carried dead bodies past the twisted wreckage of a vehicle and minibus taxis smeared with blood.
“So far, we’ve carried 61 dead people and 51 others injured. There are more casualties and the death toll is sure to rise,” Abdikadir Abdirahman Haji Aden, founder of Amin ambulances, told Reuters.
The Horn of Africa country has been riven by conflict since 1991, when clan warlords overthrew dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast.
Al Qaeda-linked Islamist group al Shabaab regularly carries out such attacks in an attempt to undermine the government, which is backed by the United Nations and African Union troops. Al Shabaab has also carried out attacks in east African countries such as Kenya and Uganda.
The most deadly attack blamed on al Shabaab was in October 2017 when a bomb-laden truck exploded next to a fuel tanker in Mogadishu, creating a storm of fire that killed nearly 600 people.
The group has sometimes not claimed responsibility for attacks that provoked a big public backlash, such as a 2009 suicide bombing of a graduation ceremony for medical students.
After the sound of Saturday’s huge blast at the Ex-Control checkpoint, 55-year-old Sabdow Ali, who lives nearby, said he left his house and counted at least 13 people dead.
“Dozens of injured people were screaming for help but the police immediately opened fire and I rushed back to my house,” he told Reuters.
The injured were transported to Medina Hospital, where a Reuters witness saw dozens arriving by ambulance from the scene.
Speaking to reporters at the blast site, Mogadishu Mayor Omar Muhamoud said the government confirmed at least 90 civilians, mostly students, had been injured in the explosion.
Police officials were not immediately available for comment on casualty numbers.
Reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Additional reporting by Feisal Omar; Writing by Maggie Fick and David Clarke; Editing by Jan Harvey and Frances Kerry