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Scores dead in 'massive' car bomb blast in Somalia's Mogadishu

Somalia's capital is regularly targeted by al-Shabaab militants [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 December, 2019

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A massive car bomb exploded in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Saturday, leaving at least 90 dead and scores injured - with the death toll expected to rise.
At least 90 people were killed after a massive car bomb exploded in a busy area of the Somali capital Mogadishu on Saturday, an ambulance official said.

"The number of casualties we have confirmed is 76 dead and 70 wounded, it could still be higher," the director of the private Aamin Ambulance services, Abdukadir Abdirahman Haji told AFP.

A number of students and two Turkish nationals, the Somali foreign minister said.

The explosion occurred in a busy area prone to heavy traffic due to a security checkpoint and a taxation office.

"This was a devastating incident because there were many people including students in buses who were passing by the area when the blast occurred," said witness Muhibo Ahmed.

Sakariye Abdukadir, who was near the area when the car bomb detonated, said the blast "destroyed several of my car windows."

"All I could see was scattered dead bodies... amid the blast and some of them burned beyond recognition."

Mogadishu is regularly hit by car bombs and attacks waged by Al-Shabaab Islamist militants allied to Al-Qaeda.

The group was forced out of the Somali capital in 2011 but still controls parts of the countryside and has also staged attacks in neighbouring Kenya.

Two weeks ago five people were killed when al-Shabaab attacked a popular Mogadishu hotel in an hours-long siege.

The SYL hotel is close to the main entrance to the Villa Somalia government complex, a high-security area that includes the presidential palace, the prime minister's office and ministry buildings.

The hotel, which is popular with government officials, business people and visiting diplomats and delegations, has suffered three previous deadly attacks, all claimed by the al-Shabaab group.

The first, in January 2015, killed five people when a suicide car bomber rammed the hotel gates on the eve of a visit by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In February 2016, twin blasts set off close to the hotel and the neighbouring Peace Garden killed 14 people.

Then in August of the same year, a suicide car bomb attack on the hotel killed 15 people and caused extensive damage.

A similar attack in July of this year killed civilians, including the mayor of Somalia's capital Mogadishu who died of wounds sustained in the militant bombing attack on his office.

Mayor Abdirahman Omar Osman died while doctors were treating his wounds at a hospital in Doha, a spokesman for the Somali president's office said. 

Six people were killed and Osman was initially wounded in the July 24 attack on a government building claimed by Al-Shabaab jihadists to have been targeting a UN envoy.

UN special envoy James Swan had met the mayor and left just before the blast at the headquarters of the Banadir district.

"I deplore this heinous attack which not only demonstrates a violent disregard for the sanctity of human life, but also targets Somalis working to improve the lives of their fellow Somalis in the Mogadishu-Banadir region," Swan said in a statement, confirming he had been in the building earlier in the day.

The al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabaab jihadist group claimed responsibility for the "well-prepared operation", saying they were targeting Swan.

A security source, who asked not to be named, said a suicide bomber had entered a hall where the officials were meeting and detonated the blast inside. 

"The blast was very heavy, and I saw people fleeing, some with shrapnel wounds, outside the Banadir administration headquarters," said witness Mohamud Shariif, referring to the regional government offices.

In a statement, Shabaab said they had "killed many of the enemy".

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