At Least 79 Dead in Truck Bomb Attack in Somalia’s Capital

Mohammed Omar Ahmed and Mohamed Sheikh Nor

(Bloomberg) -- At least 79 people, many of them university students, died when a truck bomb exploded during rush hour at a busy intersection in Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu, according to the Associated Press and other news reports.

An explosives-laden vehicle hit the taxation office near a junction in Mogadishu, Ahmed Abdi Hussein, a Somali police officer, told Bloomberg News by phone. Another police official said the target was Turkish engineers who were in a vehicle near the intersection, without elaborating on how he got the information.

Two Turks were killed in the attack, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported, citing Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

At least 125 people were wounded and were being treated at nearby hospitals. The number of dead could exceed 100, Anadolu Agency said, quoting Ambassador Mehmet Yilmaz.

The explosion took place at a checkpoint after police blocked the truck from entering the city, the Associated Press reported, citing the nation’s police chief.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. The al-Qaeda-linked militant group al-Shabab last week said they carried out a car bombing that killed eight people in central Somalia and the group has been blamed for an October 2017 bombing that killed more than 500 people.

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed blamed al-Shabab for what he called a “heinous act of terror.”

“This dark day has robbed our nation of dozens of innocent lives, the perpetrators of this heinous act of terror will never dim the spirits of the people of Somalia,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter. “Let’s join hands in countering this evil in our midst. Let’s move fast and help out the survivors.”

The U.S. embassy in Somalia, speaking on behalf of Ambassador Donald Yamamoto, sent its “deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims” in a Twitter message.

The United Nations issued a statement on behalf of Secretary General Antonio Guterres that “strongly condemns” the attack and expressed condolences to the injured and families of the victims.

“He stresses that the perpetrators of this horrendous crime must be brought to justice,” the UN said in the statement. “The Secretary-General reiterates the full commitment of the United Nations to support the people and Government of Somalia in their pursuit of peace and development.”

The African nation is among the world’s poorest, and is struggling to rebuild after decades of civil war.

(Updates death toll in first paragraph.)

--With assistance from Taylan Bilgic and Susan Decker.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mohammed Omar Ahmed in Garowe at mahmed76@bloomberg.net;Mohamed Sheikh Nor in Mogadishu at msheikhnor@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Shamim Adam at sadam2@bloomberg.net, Ros Krasny, Matthew G. Miller

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