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Somalia security forces and others gather and search for bodies near destroyed buildings at the scene of Saturday's blast, in Mogadishu, Somalia, October 15, 2017.
(AP)

The death toll from twin truck bombings in Somalia’s capital rose to nearly 300 on Sunday, officials said, as emergency crews pulled more bodies from burned cars and demolished buildings after the Saturday blasts.

Somalia security forces and others gather and search for bodies near destroyed buildings at the scene of Saturday's blast, in Mogadishu, Somalia, October 15, 2017.
(AP)
Somalia security forces and others gather and search for bodies near destroyed buildings at the scene of Saturday's blast, in Mogadishu, Somalia, October 15, 2017. (AP)

Somalia security forces and others gather and search for bodies near destroyed buildings at the scene of Saturday's blast, in Mogadishu, Somalia, October 15, 2017.
(AP)

The death toll from twin truck bombings in Somalia’s capital rose to nearly 300 on Sunday, officials said, as emergency crews pulled more bodies from burned cars and demolished buildings after the Saturday blasts.

Officials called the explosions on Saturday one of the deadliest attacks to hit the capital, Mogadishu, since an Islamist insurgency began in 2007.

The blasts left at least 300 others wounded, and families scrambled to find missing relatives amid the rubble and in hospitals. The death toll — which the information minister on Sunday said was 276 — was expected to rise.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declared three days of national mourning and called for donations of blood and funds to help the victims.

“Today’s horrific attack proves our enemy would stop nothing to cause our people pain and suffering. Let’s unite against terror,” Mr. Mohamed said on Twitter. He added that flags would be flown at half-staff: “Time to unite and pray together. Terror won’t win.”

“I call on our citizens to come out, extend help, donate blood and comfort the bereaved,” said the president, who donated blood on Sunday.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Photos published by the local news media showed scenes of carnage and devastation, with bodies, and bloodied slippers and shoes scattered in the aftermath. Windows of nearby buildings were shattered. Overturned cars burned in the streets.

Some of the victims died in their cars and in public transportation vehicles.

“There was a traffic jam, and the road was packed with bystanders and cars,” Abdinur Abdulle, a waiter at a nearby restaurant, said on Saturday. “It’s a disaster.”

The United States Mission to Somalia condemned the bombings, calling them “cowardly attacks” that “reinvigorate the commitment of the United States to assist our Somali and African Union partners to combat the scourge of terrorism.”

The Qatar Embassy was severely damaged in the explosion, the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement, adding that the chargé d’affaires had been slightly injured.

The British ambassador to Somalia, David Concar, said on Twitter that the blast had been clearly audible from inside the British Embassy.

He also wrote: “Such cruel, cowardly acts. My condolences to the families and friends of the killed and injured, and to all Somalis. A time for unity and resolve.”

Erdogan Hospital, one of six hospitals that received wounded victims, said at least 127 people had been brought there for treatment. Senator Abshir Ahmed, the deputy speaker of the upper house of the Federal Parliament, wrote on his Facebook page that he had been told by Dr. Mohamed Yusuf, the director of Madina Hospital, that 218 bodies had been taken to that hospital.

At least 130 had been burned beyond recognition, Mr. Ahmed wrote.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre appointed a 16-member committee, including ministers, civil society leaders and religious leaders, to arrange national funerals for the victims and to provide assistance to the wounded, according to his office.

The blast occurred two days after the head of the United States Africa Command was in Mogadishu to meet with Somalia’s president, and after the country’s defense minister and army chief resigned for undisclosed reasons.

The American military has stepped up drone strikes this year against the Shabab, a group aligned with Al Qaeda that has recently stepped up attacks on army bases across the southern and central parts of the country.

Source: The New York Times - By HUSSEIN MOHAMED and MOHAMED IBRAHIM

 

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