The death toll from the most powerful bomb blast witnessed in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Saturday has risen to 231 with more than 275 injured, making it the deadliest single attack ever in the Horn of Africa nation, according to a senator, police and hospital sources.
Police said a truck bomb exploded outside the Safari Hotel at the K5 intersection, which is lined with government offices, restaurants and kiosks, flattening buildings and setting vehicles on fire.
A separate blast struck the Medina district two hours later.
Abshir Abdi Ahmed said the toll comes from doctors at hospitals he has visited in Mogadishu. Many of the bodies in hospital mortuaries have not yet been identified, he said.
It is the single deadliest attack ever in the Horn of Africa nation.
Dr Afzal Ashraf, assistant professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, told The Independent the attack was likely a response to recent losses suffered by Islamist groups.
He said groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and Isis were “increasingly on the back foot, particularly in Iraq and Syria, and feel they need to lash out.”
More than 200 were injured in the explosion outside the hotel and hospitals are struggling to cope with the high number of casualties.
Officials feared the death toll would continue to climb. Many died at hospitals from their wounds, Police Captain Mohamed Hussein said.
The Red Cross said four volunteers with the Somali Red Crescent Society are among the dead and warned “this figure may rise as there are a number of volunteers still missing.”
Overnight, rescue workers with torch lights searched for survivors trapped under the rubble of the largely destroyed Safari Hotel, which is close to Somalia’s foreign ministry. The explosion blew off metal gates and blast walls erected outside the hotel.
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 for the wounded victims. “I am appealing all Somali people to come forward and donate,” he said.
Angry protesters took to the streets in Mogadishu a day after the massive truck bomb attack.
Somalia’s government blamed the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab extremist group for the attack it called a “national disaster.” However, al-Shabaab, which often targets high-profile areas of the capital with bombings, had yet to claim the attack.
“They don’t care about the lives of Somali people, mothers, fathers and children,” Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said. “They have targeted the most populated area in Mogadishu, killing only civilians.”