* Militant group warns of more attacks (Adds U.N., government statement on
By Abdi Sheikh and Mohamed Ahmed
MOGADISHU, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Somalia's al Qaeda-linked rebels struck at the
heart of the capital on Tuesday, killing more than 70 people with a truck
bomb in the group's most deadly attack in the country since launching an
insurgency in 2007.
Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed denounced the blast, which caused the
most casualties among young students waiting for exam results at the
education ministry, as a "cruel and inhumane act of violence". Another 150
people were wounded.
The African Union force in Somalia (AMISOM) said a truck laden with drums of
fuel rammed a checkpoint outside a compound housing government ministries in
the K4 (Kilometre 4) area of Mogadishu, where students had gathered to
register for scholarships offered by Turkey.
Hundreds of parents stood weeping outside the Madina Hospital in Mogadishu
after being denied access for security reasons and nurses said they were
The al Shabaab insurgents who carried out the attack later warned Somalis to
stay away from government buildings and military bases. "More serious blasts
are coming," spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage told reporters.
The twisted axle from the exploded truck lay on blackened soil. A body
draped with a red shawl lay nearby. People used corrugated iron, rugs and
white sheeting to carry corpses away from the devastation at a normally
Ambulances rushed to and fro past twisted, charred trees and a burnt out
"I was among the first people to arrive here moments after the explosion. I
looked around and reassured those who were still alive," said witness Halma
Britain condemned the attack and France reasserted its support for the
country's U.N.-backed transitional government.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was appalled by the vicious
"It is very difficult to prevent these types of terrorist attacks which we
have consistently warned are likely to be on the increase," the U.N. special
envoy to Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, said.
The government said no senior officials were hurt in the attack on the
BURNS AND FRACTURES
Al Shabaab insurgents pulled most of their fighters out of Mogadishu in
August allowing government troops and African Union soldiers to seize much
of the capital. But the rebels vowed to still carry out attacks on
"AMISOM still considers al Shabaab as a terrible group and will work with
other partners to stop their horrible attacks on civilians," the AU force
spokesman Paddy Ankunda said.
The blast flattened kiosks near the compound and a charred body lay near a
blazing car. Debris from the explosion landed hundreds of metres away.
Scores of people with burns walked to a nearby hospital and police were
trying to evacuate more students trapped inside the damaged buildings.
Doctors said they were shocked by the number of casualties, in a city that
has endured years of violence.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said more than 90 people,
including five women and nine children, had been admitted to the Madina
Hospital, many with burns and fractures.
Some analysts said they were worried the blast might prompt international
agencies helping famine victims in Somalia to pull out, leaving operations
in the hands of local organisations prone to corruption or theft by
"Most humanitarian agencies were complaining about a lack of security and
this might put off international agencies from going anywhere near Mogadishu
now," said Hamza Mohamed, a London-based Somali analyst. "This is my worst
President Ahmed said al Shabaab could not have "attacked the Somali people
at a worst time", as the country struggles with the worst drought to hit the
country in decades, but vowed to hit back at the rebels.
"They cannot attack our resolve and will not turn us away from a future in
our own safety and security, united in peace and prosperity," he said in a
When al Shabaab fighters pulled out of Mogadishu in August, analysts warned
the conflict was far from won and a shift in the insurgents' tactics could
herald a wave of al Qaeda-style attacks.
Others analysts said the attack was a stark reminder the group still poses a
threat to Somalia, and other countries in the region. Al Shabaab killed 79
people watching the soccer World Cup final in Uganda last year.
Analysts also said the blast underscored the government's failure to take
advantage of the August withdrawal.
"The fact al Shabaab has reoccupied at least three of the districts it
abandoned at the time and is apparently able to operate freely in others to
the extent of pulling off the bombing is an indictment of the regime's
failure to capitalise on the opportunity, which was handed to it on a silver
platter," said J. Peter Pham, Africa director with U.S. think-tank the
Al Shabaab has used suicide bombers to devastating effect in past attacks on
African Union compounds, government buildings and a medical graduation
A suicide bomber killed three government ministers in the December 2009
attack on the graduation ceremony in Mogadishu and a fourth minister died
from his wounds two months later. A female suicide bomber killed the
interior minister in June.
Al Shabaab is fighting to oust the U.N.-backed transition government that it
sees as a puppet of the West and wants to impose its own harsh version of
sharia law throughout Somalia.
The militants still hold sway over large chunks of southern and central
Somalia, which is also in the grip of a famine. Al Shabaab had appeared to
be on the back foot and there were reports of internal rifts and funding
However, al Shabaab has renewed its attacks on government troops and militia
near the Kenyan border in the past few weeks and the Kenyan government has
also blamed the militants for the kidnapping of two Western tourists from
its beach resorts.
The attack also comes at a time the government has just embarked on a
12-month political road map which is supposed to lead to elections for a new
parliament and president by Aug. 20 next year. (Additional reporting by
Ibrahim Mohamed in Mogadishu; Yara Bayoumy and David Clarke in Nairobi;
Writing by David Clarke)
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Received on Tue Oct 04 2011 - 17:36:25 EDT