Alwaght- At least 90 people were killed in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Saturday when a bomb-laden truck exploded at a busy checkpoint.
The dead included many students and two Turkish nationals, Somalia’s foreign minister said, adding that dozens were injured.
The bomb attack, the deadliest in more than two years in Somalia, occurred during the morning rush hour. Rescuers carried bodies past the twisted wreckage of a vehicle and a minibus taxi smeared with blood.
A report by the international organization, which did not want to be named, said the death toll was more than 90 and that university students and 17 police officers were among those killed.
Other sources suggested the toll could be much higher than 90 as the attack occurred during the morning rush hour and in a busy day in Somalia, a Muslim country in the Horn of Africa region.
Like other checkpoints in a city scarred by decades of conflict, traffic is often clogged at the Ex-Control Junction, where heavily armed security forces check vehicles for explosives and weapons and other officers direct traffic. There is also a government tax collection point at junction, officials said.
No-one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast but the city’s mayor blamed al Qaeda-linked Islamist group al Shabaab.
The group regularly carries out such attacks in an attempt to undermine the government, which is backed by the United Nations and African Union peacekeeping troops.
The most deadly attack blamed on al Shabaab was in October 2017 when a bomb-laden truck exploded next to a fuel tanker in Mogadishu, creating a fireball that killed nearly 600 people.
While al Shabaab carries out frequent attacks, the death tolls are often lower than in Saturday’s blast. The group has sometimes not claimed responsibility for attacks that sparked a big public backlash, such as a 2009 suicide bombing of a graduation ceremony for medical students.
A number of attacks this year, including one in September on a base where U.S. special forces train Somali commandos, show the group maintains a strong intelligence network and can mount deadly and sometimes sophisticated operations, analysts say.
A general view shows the scene of a car bomb explosion at a checkpoint in Mogadishu, Somalia December 28, 2019. REUTERS/Feisal Omar
Three witnesses told Reuters that a small team of Turkish engineers were present at the time of the blast, constructing a road into the city.
Turkey’s foreign ministry confirmed the death of two of its nationals.
Turkey has been a major donor to Somalia since a famine in 2011, and together with the government of Qatar is funding a number of infrastructure and medical projects in the country. Turkey opened a military base in Mogadishu in 2017 to train Somali soldiers.