Connect with us

Terrorism Watch

Death toll from blast in Somalia’s capital rises to 276, with more than 300 injured

Published

on

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA—The most powerful bomb blast ever witnessed in Somalia’s capital killed 276 people with around 300 others injured, a government minister said early Monday, making it the deadliest single attack in this Horn of Africa nation.

Abshir Abdi Ahmed cited doctors at overwhelmed hospitals he visited in Mogadishu a day after a truck bomb targeted a crowded street near key government ministries, including foreign affairs. Many of the bodies in mortuaries had not yet been identified, he said.

In a tweet, Information Minister Abdirahman Osman called the attack “barbaric” and said countries including Turkey and Kenya had already offered to send medical aid.

As angry protesters gathered near the scene of the attack, Somalia’s government blamed the Al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab extremist group for what it called a “national disaster.” However, Africa’s deadliest Islamic extremist group, which often targets high-profile areas of the capital, had yet to comment.

Al-Shabab earlier this year vowed to step up attacks after both the Trump administration and Somalia’s recently elected president announced new military efforts against the group.

Global Affairs Canada has confirmed there are no reports of Canadians affected by the bombing.

“Global Affairs Canada is closely monitoring the situation in Mogadishu and stands ready to provide consular assistance to Canadian citizens as required,” said spokesperson John Babcock.

“On behalf of all Canadians, we extend our sympathies to the families and friends of those who died, and we wish a swift recovery to everyone injured,” Babcock said.

The Mogadishu bombing is one of the deadliest attacks in sub-Saharan Africa, larger than the Garissa University attack in Kenya in 2015 and the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

Doctors at Mogadishu hospitals struggled to assist badly wounded victims, many burned beyond recognition. “This is really horrendous, unlike any other time in the past,” said Dr. Mohamed Yusuf, the director of Medina hospital.

Inside, bleary-eyed nurses transported a man whose legs had been blown off. He waited as surgeons attended to another badly injured patient. Exhausted doctors struggled to keep their eyes open, while screams from victims and newly bereaved families echoed through the halls.

“Nearly all of the wounded victims have serious wounds,” said nurse Samir Abdi. “Unspeakable horrors.”

A teary-eyed Hawo Yusuf looked at her husband’s badly burned body. “He may die waiting,” she said. “We need help.”

Ambulance sirens echoed across the city as bewildered families wandered in the rubble of buildings, looking for missing relatives. “In our 10-year experience as the first responder in #Mogadishu, we haven’t seen anything like this,” the Aamin Ambulance service tweeted.

Grief overwhelmed many.

“There’s nothing I can say. We have lost everything,” wept Zainab Sharif, a mother of four who lost her husband. She sat outside a hospital where he was pronounced dead after hours of efforts by doctors to save him.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declared three days of mourning and joined thousands of people who responded to a desperate plea by hospitals to donate blood. “I am appealing all Somali people to come forward and donate,” he said.

Mogadishu, a city long accustomed to deadly bombings by al-Shabab, was stunned by the force of Saturday’s blast. The explosion shattered hopes of recovery in an impoverished country left fragile by decades of conflict, and it again raised doubts over the government’s ability to secure the seaside city of more than two million people.

“They don’t care about the lives of Somali people, mothers, fathers and children,” Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said of the attackers. “They have targeted the most populated area in Mogadishu, killing only civilians.”

Rescue workers searched for survivors trapped under the rubble of the largely destroyed Safari Hotel, which is close to the foreign ministry. The explosion blew off metal gates and blast walls erected outside the hotel.

The United States condemned the bombing, saying “such cowardly attacks reinvigorate the commitment of the United States to assist our Somali and African Union partners to combat the scourge of terrorism.”

But the U.S. Africa Command said U.S. forces had not been asked to provide aid. A spokesperson told The Associated Press that first responders and local enforcement would handle the response and “the U.S. would offer assistance if and when a request was made.”

The U.S. military has stepped up drone strikes and other efforts this year against al-Shabab, which is also fighting the Somali military and over 20,000 African Union forces in the country.

The United Nations special envoy to Somalia called the attack “revolting,” saying an unprecedented number of civilians had been killed. Michael Keating said the UN and African Union were supporting the Somali government’s response with “logistical support, medical supplies and expertise.”

In a tweet, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was “sickened” by the attack, and his spokesperson urged all Somalis to unite against extremism and work together to build a “functional” federal state.

Saturday’s blast occurred two days after the head of the U.S. Africa Command was in Mogadishu to meet with Somalia’s president, and two days after the country’s defence minister and army chief resigned for undisclosed reasons.

Amid the chaos, the stories of victims began to emerge. Amino Ahmed said one of her friends, a female medical student, was killed on the eve of her graduation. The explosion also killed a couple returning from a hospital after having their first child, said Dahir Amin Jesow, a Somali lawmaker.

“It’s a dark day for us,” he said.

As there is no consular presence in Somalia, Canadians in Mogadishu in need of emergency assistance are being advised to contact the High Commission of Canada in Nairobi at 254 (20) 266-3000, or the Global Affairs 24/7 Emergency Watch and Response Centre at 613-669-8885.

KENYA

Ahmed Iman alias Kimanthi flees after Al-Shabaab fallout

Published

on

Ahmed Iman alias Kimanthi, a member of Al-Shabaab, is on the run after falling out with other commanders who want him executed. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

A Kenyan who rose through Al-Shabaab ranks to become the poster boy for the terrorist organisation is on the run after falling out with other commanders who want him executed.

Ahmed Iman alias Kimanthi, who appeared in numerous Al-Shabaab propaganda videos taunting Kenyan troops fighting in Somalia, the group’s stronghold, is now seeking to surrender to Kenyan forces and get amnesty, the Nation has learnt.

Until the row, he was close to the current Al-Shabaab supremo Ahmed Diriye and Mahad Karate, also known as Abdirahim Mohamed Warsame, who commanded Shabaab’s Amniyat, its intelligence wing, when gunmen stormed Garissa University College and killed 147 students in April, 2015.

VIDEO CLIPS

In the video clips, which are unavailable after they were pulled down by YouTube, Iman says the killings were carried out to avenge the killing of radical Muslim clerics.

Ads By Google

In those videos, he named the clerics as Aboud Rogo, Samir Khan and Sheikh Abubakar Shariff alias Makaburi.

International security sources operating in Somalia, told the Nation that Iman has been the head of a group of foreign fighters who together with him, are now on the run from the main group loyal to Diriye and Karate.

A number of Kenyans and other foreigners who joined Al-Shabaab terrorists in Somalia have since been captured and executed.

On November 6, a 25-year-old Kenyan from Garissa was among four people who were publicly executed by the terrorists in Somalia.

Omar Adar Omar was killed by firing squad on accusations of spying for the Africa Union Mission in Somalia, which comprises the Kenya Defence Forces.

The fall-out is further complicated after the emergence of a faction that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Syria, while Diriye’s group maintains its formal partnership with Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

DRAGNETS

The Nation has further learnt that Iman, in a bid to escape from Somalia, has evaded several dragnets to capture him.

Al-Shabaab is well known for executing militants within its own ranks whenever there is a fallout.

The latest developments are a repeat of what happened to Fazul Abdullah Mohamed, who was killed in a set up laid by Godane Ahmed Abdi Godane alias Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, who was Diriye’s predecessor.

Godane was later killed in a joint operation by US and KDF in Somalia.

Besides assuming the role of commander of foreign fighters in Somalia, Iman also has a great influence in Jaysh Ayman, another Al-Shabaab faction operating in Boni Forest which spreads across the Kenya-Somalia border in Lamu County.

Furthermore, Iman is also said to be getting foreign funding directly, further angering indigenous Somali commanders, the sources also said.

A 2016 security report published by the Nation, revealed that Iman and accomplices in Nairobi collected millions of shillings every year by renting shops and kiosks in Umoja and Majengo, and the money is smuggled to Somalia to fund terrorism activities.

LOOTED

In one Al-Shabaab propaganda video, he was seen clad in KDF uniform, holding a walkie-talkie and an M-16 rifle, which he claimed was one of the arms looted from El-Adde Forward Operating Base, which was overran by the terrorists in January 2016.

Besides Kenya, whose soldiers are operating in southern Somalia, Al-Shabaab is also being fought by the US and other countries in Amisom, including Ethiopia, Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti.
100 fighters killed

On Tuesday, 100 Al-Shabaab fighters were killed in an air strike by the US.

“In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, US forces conducted an air strike in Somalia against an Al-Shabaab camp at approximately 10.30 local Somalia time, killing more than 100 militants.

The operation occurred 125 miles northwest of the capital, Mogadishu,” said a statement by US Africa Command.

The Statement added: “US forces will continue to use all authorised and appropriate measures to protect Americans and to disable terrorist threats.

This includes partnering with Amisom and Somali National Security Forces in targeting terrorists, their training camps and safe havens throughout Somalia, the region and around the world.”

Continue Reading

Briefing Room

Somalia says it requested U.S. air strike which killed 100 militants

Published

on

Somalia’s government said on Wednesday it had requested the U.S. air strike which killed more than 100 suspected militants on the previous day to help pave the way for an upcoming ground offensive against Islamist militant group al Shabaab.

The United States military’s Africa Command said on Tuesday it had killed more than 100 of the al Qaeda-linked insurgents in an air strike on a camp 125 miles (200 km) northwest of the capital Mogadishu.

“Those militants were preparing explosives and attacks. Operations against al Shabaab have been stepped up,” Abdirahman Omar Oman, the Somali minister, told Reuters.

“We have asked the U.S. to help us from the air to make our readied ground offensive more successful.”

The United States has ramped up operations in Somalia this year after President Donald Trump loosened the rules of engagement in March.

Africom reported eight U.S. air strikes from May to August this year, compared to 13 for the whole of 2016. Including Tuesday’s air strike, it has reported five strikes in Somalia this month alone.

The Pentagon said the U.S. military would continue to target militants in strikes in coordination with the Somali government.

A Navy Seal was killed in a raid in May and U.S. forces were present at a controversial raid on the town of Bariire in August, in which 10 people were killed.

Al Shabaab has lost control of most of Somalia’s cities and towns since African Union peacekeepers supporting Somali troops pushed the insurgency out of the capital Mogadishu in 2011. But it retains a strong presence in parts of the south and center.

Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a dual U.S.-Somali citizen, has taken a harder line than his predecessors against the insurgency since he was sworn in earlier this year.

But his plans have been repeatedly thwarted by the poor state of the Somali military and political infighting.

Continue Reading

Briefing Room

U.S. airstrikes kill more than 100 militants in Somalia

Published

on

WASHINGTON — Reflecting stepped-up targeting of extremists in Africa, the U.S. military said airstrikes killed more than 100 militants in Somalia on Tuesday and hit Islamic State fighters in Libya days earlier.

U.S. Africa Command, which manages U.S. military operations on the continent, said the airstrike in Somalia targeted an al-Shabab camp about 125 miles northwest of the capital, Mogadishu, killing more than 100. That is the largest number of reported deaths from a single U.S. airstrike in Somalia since the Trump administration approved expanded military operations against al-Shabab, which is allied with al-Qaida.

Al-Shabab is blamed for last month’s truck bombing in Mogadishu that killed more than 350 people.

It’s largest number of reported deaths from a single U.S. airstrike in Somalia since the Trump administration approved expanded military operations against al-Shabab.

A Somali intelligence official said U.S. drone aircraft fired at least eight missiles at al-Shabab bases and training camps in Bur-Eylada, a village situated between the towns of Dinsor and Burhakaba in the Bay region. The official, who was not authorized to speak to reporters on the record and discussed the matter on condition of anonymity, said senior al-Shabab commanders were among the dead.

The U.S. this month also began targeting a small but growing IS presence in northern Somalia.

Separately, Africa Command said it conducted two airstrikes near Fuqaha in central Libya against Islamic State group militants — one Nov. 17 and another two days later. It made no mention of casualties and did not identify the specific targets. It said the strikes were done in coordination with Libya’s interim government, known as the Government of National Accord.

The Trump administration has committed to preventing the Islamic State group from regrouping after losing its grip on significant territory in Iraq and Syria.

AFRICOM STATEMENT

In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. forces conducted an airstrike in Somalia against an al-Shabaab camp on Tuesday, Nov. 21 at approximately 10:30 a.m. local Somalia time, killing more than 100 militants.

The operation occurred 125 miles northwest of the capital, Mogadishu.

Al-Shabaab has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and is dedicated to providing safe haven for terrorist attacks throughout the world. Al-Shabaab has publicly committed to planning and conducting attacks against the U.S. and our partners in the region.

U.S. forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect Americans and to disable terrorist threats. This includes partnering with AMISOM and Somali National Security Forces (SNSF); targeting terrorists, their training camps and safe havens throughout Somalia, the region and around the world.

Our political and security goals in Somalia are the same: a reconstituted Somali state at peace internally and able to address all threats within its territory.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

TRENDING