As the death toll continued to rise on Sunday following the deadly attack in Mogadishu, Somalia’s president announced a three-day mourning period, The New York Times reports. Casualties from Saturday’s truck bombing are more than 500, with at least 276 reported dead and 300 injured.
A press release posted to Twitter from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management in Somalia wrote that the reported numbers are “expected to rise as more victims continue to be rescued from the rubbles in the surrounding area.”
Somalia’s information minister, Abdirahman Omar Osman, echoed this sentiment in a statement reported by The Guardian. He added that the city and its rescue workers are struggling to recover bodies with their lack of tools, claiming they will need outside help to fully move the rubble. The area that the rubble from the blast extends to is hundreds of meters wide and lies in the densely packed interior of the city, compounding the issue further.
— Women's March (@womensmarch) October 15, 2017
Even as more bodies are being recovered, the attack stands as one of the most lethal terrorist attacks worldwide. Abdikadir Abdirahman, the director of Amin ambulances, has already confirmed death numbers higher than those reported by the information minister.
Mr. Osman spoke with Al Jazeera in an interview, saying, “We are still collecting information from hospitals and relatives of victims. Many people were taken to hospital with very serious injuries. We also have reports of relatives taking injured people away from hospitals.”
Rescue workers confirm that knowing a definitive death toll will be extremely difficult. On top of the large area they have to search through for the victims, workers say the intense heat from the blast means the remains of many may have been completely destroyed, never to be found. Others, workers say, may have been quickly buried by relatives.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo donated blood for the victims of the attack and urged his fellow Somali citizens to do the same.
"I call on our citizens to come out, extend help, donate blood and comfort the bereaved. Let's get through this together" pic.twitter.com/vWnyMBmTkY
— Villa Somalia (@TheVillaSomalia) October 14, 2017
“Today’s horrific attack proves our enemy would stop nothing to cause our people suffering and pain. Let’s unite against terror,” the president tweeted, calling on all Somalis to unite.
The truck involved in the bombing was loaded with “several hundred kilograms of military-grade and homemade explosives,” The Guardian reports.
Sources say the truck was held up at a checkpoint. It was going to be searched before the driver pressed down on the gas pedal and accelerated through a barrier. The truck’s explosion ignited a fuel tanker parked nearby, and the ensuing fireball made the blast even deadlier.
The bomb’s target is thought to have been Somalia’s foreign ministry. The explosion broke nearby buildings into rubble, including a hotel.
According to The New York Times, witnesses at the scene said: “the attack was made worse by the number of cars stuck on the road where one of the bombs exploded.”
— Wenzel Michalski (@WenzelMichalski) October 16, 2017
Although no terrorist organization has claimed responsibility for the attack, suspicion has largely fallen on the Shabab. The Somali-based militant group has wreaked havoc and destruction in Somalia and East Africa for years.
The group once controlled the majority of Mogadishu. Due to the combined attacking forces of the African Union, a burgeoning Somali army and American air power, the Shabab has lost most of its territory in the region. Despite American counterterrorism strikes, the group remains deadly.
President Trump has made comments in regards to a renewed American effort to defeat the Shabab. Some analysts believe the attack is in response to Trump loosening restrictions meant to limit civilian casualties during drone attacks, along with Shabab’s loss of territory.
United States Special Operations have 15 airstrikes against Shabab camps, targeting leaders and militants alike. A July 30 strike killed Shabab leader Ali Jabal. The commander led militants in various areas of Somalia, including Mogadishu.
Counterterrorism specialists, according to The New York Times, believe Shabab militants received aid in the attack, if they, in fact, are responsible for it. Such claims are based on the size and scale of the attack, which went beyond Shabab’s previous capabilities. Specialists have suggested the Qaeda arm in Yemen, a group renowned for their explosive power, helped the Shabab in some capacity.
— 👑 мαѕєηtℓє 🌹 (@MasentleSiwela) October 16, 2017