A security official blames Al-Shabaab Islamic terrorists for a truck bomb that killed at least 320 and injured more than 400 in Mogadishu, Somalia Oct. 14.
While the al-Qaida affiliated group had not officially claimed responsibility, security officials said a man identifying with al-Shabaab was arrested hours after the blast as he tried to drive a second truck bomb into the city. He gave details of the attack that officials described as the deadliest worldwide in many years.
“This is the Somali 9/11,” a security official told the Guardian. “The man we arrested has confessed. He is proud of what he has done. He says it was for jihad.”
Reuters video screengrab
Relatives searched for survivors in downtown Mogadishu after a truck bomb killed at least 320 and injured more than 400. Security officials blamed Islamic terrorist group al-Shabaab, an al-Qaida affiliate.
An Oct. 17 Guardian article indicated the man arrested was a former Somalian army soldier seeking revenge for a joint Somali and United States operation in his hometown that led to 10 civilians being killed. Officials said the soldier defected his military post to join Al-Shabaab.
The Associated Press (AP) indicated Oct. 17 that two other men had been arrested in connection with the investigation.
In the bombing in Somalia’s most populous city, a truck packed with military-grade and homemade explosives was detonated on a crowded downtown street, in turn igniting a fuel tanker parked nearby, the Guardian reported. Witnesses described the area of devastation, hundreds of yards wide, as the size of “two or three football fields.”
The death toll is expected to rise as the scale of the devastation becomes more apparent. Officials continued to unearth victims Oct. 16 after the death toll was put at 320.
Many of the injured survivors were badly burned, some beyond recognition, AP reported Oct. 16. Many corpses were burned to ashes, further complicating the body count, and nearly 70 were still missing as relatives searched for loved ones.
“One hundred and sixty of the bodies could not be recognized and so they were buried by the government [on Sunday],” the Guardian quoted Aden Nur, a doctor at a hospital treating survivors. “The others were buried by their relatives.”
Somalian president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declared three days of mourning in the nation where the vast majority of the 11.4 million residents are Muslim, most of them Sunni. Civil war has raged in Somalia since 1991.
Al-Shabaab is known for killing civilians and even targeting Christians, Open Doors USA said in its 2017 World Watch List, ranking Somalia second worldwide where it is most dangerous for a Christian to live. Only a few hundred Christians live in the nation, Open Doors estimated.
Al-Shabaab has strengthened in Somalia over the past six years by capturing small towns and establishing caliphates there, the Guardian reported, referencing Somalia expert Rasheed Abdi of the International Crisis Group in Nairobi. Al-Shabaab has also attacked Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Uganda, according to Open Doors.
Al-Shabaab translates to “the youth,” signaling a younger and more violent branch of Islamic terrorism, Open Doors said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)