Mogadishu: At least four people have been killed and several others wounded in a bomb explosion in Kismayo city, southern Somalia, police said.
Mohamed Ahmed, a police officer in Kismayo said that three civilians and one soldier were killed in the explosion in a busy restaurant in the city.
“A bomb planted inside the restaurant exploded while several people were inside. We can confirm that three civilians and one Somali soldier died in the blast,” Xinhua news agency quoted Ahmed as saying on Saturday.
Ahmed added that Al-Shabab militants were behind the attack, but the group did not claim the responsibility for the attack so far.
On Monday, the militants exploded a car bomber near the presidential palace in capital Mogadishu, killing 11 people.
Somalia, October 15, 2017 : Somalia’s president has declared three days of national mourning following a deadly truck bombing Saturday in the capital, Mogadishu, which left many people dead and dozens injured, including a VOA reporter.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo said the country “will observe three days of mourning for innocent victims and flags will be flown at half-mast.”
Farmaajo also called on citizens to unite against terror, saying it is “time to unite and pray together. Terror won’t win.”
Earlier Saturday, the blast occurred near Zobe, a busy intersection in Somalia’s capital, killing more than 50 people, health officials and witnesses said.
Mahad Salad Adan, a Somali lawmaker who sustained a slight wound from the blast, told VOA that more than 100 people, most of them civilians, were killed in the explosion. He said more 200 others were wounded as Mogadishu hospitals struggled to treat the wounded.
Abdulkaidr Mohamed Abdulle, a VOA Somali correspondent in Mogadishu, was among the injured. His wife, Samira Abdirahman Sheikh Adam, confirmed to VOA that he had sustained injuries to his neck, head and right hand.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, but similar attacks have been carried out by the Islamic extremist group al Shabab. The group, which is linked to al-Qaida, is trying to overthrow the government in an effort to establish strict Islamic rule.
The United States and the United Nations strongly condemned Saturday’s blast and offered condolence to the lives lost and those wounded in the attack.
Buildings around the area were leveled by the explosion from a truck bomb, and dozens of destroyed cars littered the streets.
Health officials said Saturday’s bombing was the largest blast in recent memory in Mogadishu. They also called for residents to donate blood to help with the wounded.
“For 10 years, I have been in the emergency service. … I cannot tell the exact death toll, but together I can say we have transported hundreds of people on our 10 ambulances,” said Dr. Abdulkadir Abdirahman Adem, director of the Amin ambulance service. “And economically, I think this is the worst (bombing) ever in Mogadishu in a single day.”
Government soldiers had cordoned off the area, and officials said the death toll is expected to rise as rescue workers find bodies in the rubble.
Most of the victims were civilians. The exact target of the blast remains unclear, though there are several hotels frequented by government officials and members of various diaspora communities.
“This is a disaster. We ask all Somalis to reach us, to help us in the search of dead bodies under the debris. We appeal to the doctors, to those who have digging machines,” Mogadishu Mayor Tabid Abdi Mohamed said on government radio.
Saturday’s blast came hours after al-Shabab militants regained control of Barire, a strategic Somalian town in a farming area along the Shabelle river, 45 kilometers from Mogadishu.
The explosion also comes two days after Somalia’s defense minister and military chief, who were leading the fight against Islamist militants, both resigned from the government, citing personal reasons.
Some analysts believe militants tend to carry out such attacks when there are security lapses.
“The resignation of the country’s defense and military chiefs gave the militants a gab [opening] to carry out such disastrous attack,” said Mogadishu University’s Dr. Abdul Kadir Liban Isse. (VOA)
Somalia, September 12, 2017 : For the first time in more than 30 years, thousands of residents and fans watched a nighttime soccer match in Mogadishu, often described as the world’s most dangerous capital.
Thousands of fans enjoyed the event at Konis Stadium, which the international soccer organization FIFA recently renovated.
Although the match, the final of a citywide club tournament for 16- to 18-year-olds, took place under tight security, it was historic for the city, which has dealt with terrorist suicide bombings and anarchy.
After the match, in which Waberi beat Hodan 3-0, Mogadishu Mayor Tabit Abdi Mohamed said the city’s residents deserve security — and more than a nighttime soccer game.
“Tonight is clearly a historic night that our people, the people of this city, waited for for more than 30 years. I reaffirm that Mogadishu is secure and people deserve more than this,” Mohamed said. “You deserve every kind of entertainment and sports that people in other world capital cities get.”
Hassan Wish, the chairman of Mogadishu’s sports activities who organized the tournament, said they decided to hold the nighttime game to send a message that Mogadishu is on the road to betterment.
“To publicize and make it a significant signal to the city’s returning security, the match was held at a nighttime. It was broadcast live on several local television channels,” Wish said. “The city is back on its way to good old days.”
Stadium now a military base
The Somali Football Federation said the Friday night game in Mogadishu took the country back to 1988, when night games were played at the city’s main Mogadishu stadium. The stadium has been and remains a military base for African Union peacekeepers, which drove al-Shabab militants out of the city in 2011.
“We hope this will be the first of similar peaceful matches in our city. It is not the first for Mogadishu, but for me, I have never seen in my life a soccer game being played at night in Mogadishu,” said Dahir Osman, a 20-year-old resident. “I was born in a lawless capital and grew up all these years without witnessing such a hope-reviving event.”
The seaside capital is working to lose the label of “the world’s most dangerous city.”
The name was attached to the city after the collapse of the former central government in 1992, when a famine struck Somalia and political jockeying began. That led to a civil war and deadly armed violence spearheaded by clan warlords who entered the city.
Last month, popular Somali referee Osman Jama Dirah was shot to death near his home in the city.
“The city is enjoying a reviving peace, except for the infrequent al-Shabab terrorist attacks. Now, playing a soccer game at night means the city is rearing its beautiful head again,” said Aden Osman, a 58-year-old resident who has never left Mogadishu.
“I was born in this city and still live here. I have witnessed the best and the worst times of the city. But now, I see a reviving hope on the horizon,” Osman said.
Thousands of Somalis from the diaspora have been returning to Mogadishu over the past three years, opening new, Western-style restaurants along the beach. The buildings that have been destroyed by the bullets and mortars are now being rebuilt.
Many U.N. workers, who had been operating from Nairobi, the capital of neighboring Kenya, are moving back to the city, and some foreign embassies have reopened.
Since the collapse of Somalia’s central military government in 1991, Somalia sports have lacked an infrastructure, and athletes have been threatened by radical militants.
In 2006, the Islamic Courts Union, which controlled large swaths of the country’s south and central regions, which include Mogadishu, prohibited women from playing sports, especially basketball, labeling it as a “satanic act” against the principles of Islam.
The group also put restrictions on men and banned watching international soccer matches from televisions and designated cinemas, saying the men should spend their time on their religious responsibilities. (VOA)
Once a threat primarily in Somalia, the militant group al-Shabab has grown and expanded its aspirations, operations, and aims, and is preparing to wage a long war in East Africa, according to analysts and experts on the region.
East Africa’s Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which works for peace, prosperity and regional integration among its eight member states, declared this week that al-Shabab is now a “transnational” organization projecting threats of extremist violence far beyond Somalia.
“Even if al-Shabab were to be defeated tomorrow I think it has inspired a generation of jihadists from across the region, from different countries, who are likely to continue,” says Matt Bryden, a director and senior analyst for the Sahan Foundation, which conducted IGAD’s regional study on al-Shabab.
“Al-Shabab is clearly no longer an exclusively Somali problem, and requires a concerted international response,” the IGAD report said, noting that al-Shabab is active is six countries of the region – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, and Tanzania.
Bryden traces the roots of al-Shabab back to 2009 when the group was a purely Somali organization but was also attracting many foreign adherents, in particular, Swahili speakers.
“In East Africa, among Swahili-speaking populations, this goes beyond al-Shabab as a Somali organization sending agents to operate in neighboring countries,” says Bryden. “Al-Shabab’s propaganda is now heavily populated with radio, video, and articles in Kiswahili. It’s clearly targeting recruits in East Africa.”
Abdirahman Sahal, director of a Mogadishu-based center on extremism, agrees with Bryden that al-Shabab laid the foundation for this regional struggle a long time ago. But he says what helped most is that the organization controlled territory in Somalia where it was able to attract foreign fighters, prepare them and send them back to their countries of origin.
“They rule land, they collect tax, they have roots. Therefore they are in a position to invite others [and] open institutions to train them,” he said.
Al-Shabab has staged attacks in Kenya, Uganda, and Djibouti and made at least two attempts to strike inside Ethiopia. And the IGAD report emphasizes that the scope of the threat the group poses throughout East Africa has only increased.
Sahal says al-Shabab’s operational capabilities are a key factor. “They only need one or two people to attack a key place, to blow themselves up,” he noted.
If the threat from al-Shabab is to be countered, Sahal said, regional countries have to attack the group’s bases inside Somalia, where plots are orchestrated.
“Seizing their bases disrupts their administration and sources of revenue. They will be busy as fugitives, hiding, and cannot execute all the plots inside and outside the country,” he said.
“But as long as they have space where they can drive their cars, live normally and administer their organizational functions, it will be easy for them to attack.”
IGAD came to the same conclusion, that it needs to counter al-Shabab both inside and outside Somalia. But whether the countries of the region can exert more pressure on al-Shabab inside Somalia, by cooperating at a level they have not achieved during the past nine years, remains to be seen.