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Safe Drive Florida | Truck bomb kills at least 76 in Somalia’s Mogadishu

“We have confirmed that two Turkish nationals, presumably road construction engineers are among the dead, we don't have details about whether they were passing by the area or stayed in the area,” he said

Officials say the blast targeted a tax collection centre in capital and most of those killed were university and other students. Two Turkish brothers are among the dead. A woman reacts as her wounded child is assisted at the Madina hospital following a car bomb explosion at a checkpoint in Mogadishu, Somalia December 28, 2019. (Reuters) A truck bomb exploded at a busy security checkpoint in Somalia's capital on Saturday morning, killing at least 76 people including many students and wounding more than 90 others, authorities said.

Police Captain Mohamed Hussein said the blast targeted a tax collection centre during the morning rush hour as Somalia returned to work after its weekend. 

The toll could rise as scores of people were rushed to hospitals, government spokesman Ismail Mukhtar told The Associated Press. 

Dr Mohamed Yusuf, director of Madina hospital, said they had received 73 bodies. The Aamin Ambulance service reported at least 76 dead.

Most of those killed were university and other students returning to class, Mayor Omar Mohamud Mohamed said. 

Mohamed told a press conference that the exact number of dead was not yet known, but that around 90 people were wounded.

“We will confirm the exact number of the number of the dead later but it is not going to be small, most of the dead were innocent university students and other civilians,” he said. 

Police officer Ibrahim Mohamed described the explosion as “devastating” and confirmed two Turkish nationals were among the dead.

“We have confirmed that two Turkish nationals, presumably road construction engineers are among the dead, we don't have details about whether they were passing by the area or stayed in the area,” he said.

It was one of the deadliest attacks in Mogadishu in recent memory, and witnesses said its force reminded them of the devastating 2017 bombing that killed hundreds of people.

'Terrorist attack'

“Treacherous terrorist attack killed two of our Turkish citizens along with our innocent Somalian brothers and sisters. I pray for God's mercy. We will always stand by our brothers in Somalia. Our struggle against terror will continue with determination,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a statement.

Images from the scene showed the mangled frames of vehicles and bodies lying on the ground. At a hospital, families and friends picked through dozens of bodies.

“I saw many dead bodies lying on the ground,” witness Mohamed Abdi Hakim said. “Some of those dead were police officers, but most of them were students.”

A Somali man stands at the scene of a truck bomb explosion at a checkpoint in Mogadishu, Somalia on December 28, 2019. (Reuters) No claim of responsibility

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. The al Qaida-linked Al Shabab often carries out such attacks. 

The terror group was pushed out of Mogadishu several years ago but continues to target high-profile areas such as checkpoints and hotels in the seaside city.

The terror group is now able to make its own explosives, its “weapon of choice,” UN experts monitoring sanctions on Somalia said earlier this year. 

The group had previously relied on military-grade explosives captured during assaults on an African Union peacekeeping force.

Al Shabab was blamed for the truck bombing in Mogadishu in October 2017 that killed more than 500 people. 

The group never claimed responsibility for the blast that led to widespread public outrage. 

Some analysts said Al Shabab didn't dare claim credit as its strategy of trying to sway public opinion by exposing government weakness had badly backfired.

“This explosion is similar to the one … in 2017. This one occurred just a few steps away from where I am and it knocked me on the ground from its force. I have never seen such an explosion in my entire life,” said witness Abdurrahman Yusuf.

A minibus that was damaged during a truck bomb explosion in Mogadishu on December 28, 2019. (AFP) Readiness of Somali forces

The latest attack again raises concern about the readiness of Somali forces to take over responsibility for the Horn of Africa country's security in the coming months from the AU force.

Al Shabab, the target of a growing number of US air strikes since President Donald Trump took office, controls parts of Somalia's southern and central regions. 

It funds itself with a “taxation” system that experts describe as extortion of businesses and travellers that brings in millions of dollars a year.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies