Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, faced a devastating attack on Feb. 19.
A car blew up in Mogadishu’s southern district, Madina, killing at least 34 people. The bomb injured approximately 50 others. This was the first major attack in the city since the country elected President Mohamed Abdullahi earlier in the month.
Witnesses explained the event as a chaotic tragedy.
Abdulle Omar said he was in his shop when the care appeared at the intersection and exploded.
“I saw more than 20 people lying on the ground,” he said. “Most of them were dead and the market was totally destroyed.”
Although nobody claimed responsibility for the attack, many believe that al-Shabab, a rampant militant group, caused the explosion. This belief stems from Sheikh Hassan Yaqub, a senior commander of the militant group, vowing Saturday to target President Abdullahi supporters. He described the president’s supporters as evil-minded and said the militant group will likely attack them.
Rather than giving into the threat, President Abdullahi said Somalis should unite against the militant group. As part of condemning al-Shabab, the president visited some of the attack victims and offered $100,000 to anyone with information that could help capture the militants responsible.
“It was a horrific and barbaric attack only aimed at killing civilians,” he said.
While many victims died in the explosion, officials say some died of extensive injuries. One ambulance driver told the Associated Press that many victims had third-degree burns. The catastrophe burned others so badly they were no longer recognizable.
What is al-Shabab?
Al-Shabab is responsible for numerous attacks in the region, including a bomb last month that killed 28 people at the Dayah Hotel.
The group emerged in the early 2000s and is mostly comprised of radical young adults. Affiliates believe in the Wahhabi version of Islam, a religious sect that conforms to ultraconservative and radical Islamic-related beliefs. Officials believe the group holds between 7,000 and 9,000 members.
Although the militants lost much of their control throughout Africa, namely Somalia and Kenya, they still have control in rural towns. The leader, Ahmad Umar, suffers from a weakening military basis, but still plans suicide attacks in the region. The United States offers a $6 million reward for anyone who has information leading to his capture.