MOGADISHU: Somalia’s president declared three days of mourning Sunday as the death toll from a truck bomb blast in Mogadishu rose to more than 230, making the attack the most deadly in the besieged East African nation’s history.
“Terror won’t win,” President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known popularly as Farmajo, said after donationg blood and visiting some of the scores of wounded at hospitals in the capital. “I call on our citizens to come out, extend help, donate blood and comfort the bereaved. Let’s get through this together.”
The blast destroyed multiple buildings and set several nearby cars and trucks ablaze. Abshir Abdi Ahmed, the deputy speaker of Somalia’s upper house of parliament, said the death death toll had reached 231.
Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire expressed his condolences to the families of the victims. He blamed the attack on the Somali militant group al-Shabab, which has not commented on the attack. The group has carried out a series of attacks in recent years aimed at establishing a radical Islamist state.
The United Nations also expressed outrage at the attack and condolences to families of the victims. MIchael Keating the U.N. special envoy to Somalia, tweeted Sunday that “Solidarity among Mog citizens is inspiring, including 2 donate blood in wake of yesterday’s horrendous attack that killed so many civilians.”
Residents were stunned by the enormity of the attack.
“In our 10-year experience as the first responder in #Mogadishu, we haven’t seen anything like this,” the Aamin Ambulance service tweeted Sunday.
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Relatives of the dead and wounded rushed to hospitals overwhelmed with victims.
“There’s nothing I can say,” Zainab Sharif, a mother of four who lost her husband, told the Associated Press outside the hospital where he was pronounced dead. “We have lost everything.”
Al-Shabab, which translates to the Youth, emerged from a now-defunct Islamic group that ruled Mogadishu a decade ago until Somali forces liberated the city. Al-Shabab has links to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups and has drawn fighters from neighboring countries.
Al-Shabab has also staged attacks over the border in Kenya, the most deadly being a massacre at Garissa University in 2015. Gunmen stormed the school in a bloodbath that killed 148 and wounded dozens more.
The militant group promotes a strict sharia law that includes amputating the hands of thieves. The group’s attacks have added to the difficulties faced by Farmajo, who was elected in February to lead the country of 14 million people that ranks among the poorest nations in the world.
Farmajo, 54, is the first democratically elected president of Somalia in more than two decades. The election was conducted by members of parliament instead of voters due to threats of violence by al-Shabab. Lawmakers held their vote in an aircraft hangar for added security.
Farmajo has close ties to the United States, holding dual Somali-U.S. citizenship and a degree from the State University of New York-Buffalo.