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At least 231 die in worst bomb attack on Somalia’s capital

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At least 231 die in worst bomb attack on Somalia’s capital A man and woman look at the damages on the site of the explosion of a truck bomb in the centre of Mogadishu, reported The Scotsman (UK).

The most powerful bomb blast ever witnessed in Somalia’s capital killed at least 231 people with more than 275 injured, making it the deadliest single attack in this Horn of Africa nation. The toll could continue to rise following the attack on Saturday, authorities said. Abshir Abdi Ahmed cited doctors at overwhelmed hospitals he visited in Mogadishu a day after a truck bomb targeted a crowded street near key government ministries.

Many of the bodies in mortuaries had not yet been identified, he said. As angry protesters gathered near the scene of the attack, Somalia’s government blamed the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group for what it called a “national disaster”. However, Africa’s deadliest Islamic extremist group, which often targets high-profile areas of the capital, had yet to comment last night. The Mogadishu bombing is one of the deadliest attacks in sub-Saharan Africa, larger than the Garissa University attack in Kenya in 2015 and the US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Doctors at Mogadishu hospitals struggled to assist badly wounded victims, many burned beyond recognition.

“This is really horrendous, unlike any other time in the past,” said Dr Mohamed Yusuf, the director of Medina hospital. Inside, nurses transported a man whose legs had been blown off. He waited as surgeons attended to another badly injured patient. Exhausted doctors struggled to keep their eyes open, while screams from victims and newly bereaved families echoed through the halls. “Nearly all of the wounded victims have serious wounds,” said nurse Samir Abdi. “Unspeakable horrors.”

A teary-eyed Hawo Yusuf looked at her husband’s badly burned body. “He may die waiting,” she said. “We need help.” Ambulance sirens echoed across the city as bewildered families wandered in the rubble of buildings, looking for missing relatives. “In our 10 year experience as the first responder in Mogadishu, we haven’t seen anything like this,” the Aamin Ambulance service tweeted. “There’s nothing I can say.

We have lost everything,” wept Zainab Sharif, a mother of four who lost her husband. She sat outside a hospital where he was pronounced dead after efforts by doctors to save him. The country’s Somali-American leader, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, declared three days of mourning and joined thousands of people who responded to a desperate plea by hospitals to donate blood.

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For many years, Somalia was a forgotten front among the various campaigns against violent extremist Islamists around the world, reported The Guardian (UK).

The massive bombing of the centre of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, will bring the international spotlight back on to the battered country – at least for a few days.

Al-Shabaab, the tenacious and capable Islamist group based in the country, is almost certainly responsible for the vast truck bomb that killed as many as 300 people in Mogadishu on Saturday.

The attack proves once more it is among the most capable and tenacious militant organisations anywhere.

Al-Shabaab’s roots run back through a series of violent – and sometimes non-violent – revivalist Islamist movements in Somalia over the past 40 years. In the past decade, it has been fighting local, regional and international forces, and has survived significant strategic setbacks primarily by exploiting the weaknesses and failings of central government in the shattered state.

One reason for the relative lack of attention devoted to al-Shabaab in recent years in Washington, London and other western capitals is that the group has ruthlessly purged anyone who wanted to swear allegiance to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria from its ranks.

That al-Shabaab – the name means “the youth” – is not seen as particularly dangerous beyond its immediate region is another reason.

Though the group has been a formal affiliate of al-Qaida since 2011, it has not engaged in terrorist planning against European or US targets. Though it has attracted militants from the west, it has not sent many back the other way.

Al-Shabaab has, however, launched a series of bloody attacks in east Africa, such as the assault on an upscale shopping mall in Kenya in 2013 in which 67 people were killed.

It has been regional powers, including Kenya, that have done the heavy lifting in terms of military deployments in Somalia in recent years.

More than 20,000 troops have been deployed by the African Union there. But they have been much criticised, accused of an arrogant and sometimes brutal attitude to local populations, corruption and military incompetence.

A series of bloody assaults by al-Shabaab on these forces’ bases have undermined political will to continue this commitment among regional states – as the extremist strategists intended it should.

The bombing in Mogadishu may now intensify a growing US commitment to pursuing a more active role in Somalia.

Earlier this year, the US president, Donald Trump, designated Somalia a “zone of active hostilities”, allowing commanders greater authority when launching airstrikes, broadening the range of possible targets and relaxing restrictions designed to prevent civilian casualties. He also authorised the deployment of regular US forces to Somalia for the first time since 1994.

The US in effect pulled out of Somalia after the “Black Hawk Down” episode of 1993, when two helicopters were shot down in Mogadishu and the bodies of American soldiers were dragged through the streets.

In May a US special forces soldier was killed in a skirmish with al-Shabaab, the first US casualty in Somalia since then.

Any deeper involvement in Somalia would come against a background of greater involvment across Africa. Earlier this month, four US servicemen were killed in a firefight in Niger with militants there.

Yet the same challenges experienced in conflict zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan face any counter-insurgency effort in Somalia.

Somalia is suffering its worst drought in 40 years, with the effects of climatic catastrophe compounded by war and poor governance. Al-Shabaab’s control over populations in rural areas in much of the south and central Somalia is such that the group was able to impose a ban on humanitarian assistance in areas they control, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to choose between death from starvation and disease or brutal punishment.

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