It was a Saturday afternoon, with many people busy in the hustle and bustle of the Somali capital when one of its central road junctions shook with the force of twin car bombings that left dozens dead.
The al Qaeda-linked terrorist group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in Mogadishu that killed 120 people and injured over 300 others. Authorities fear the toll could rise as many have been reported missing.
Survivors who spoke to Anadolu Agency said the dual bombings were one of the most severe to befall the city.
Safiyo Abdullahi, 26, was traveling in a rickshaw at the time of the blast. She survived unscathed, but her driver was not so lucky.
“I was traveling from Dharkinley district and was going to Kulan hospital to visit a friend. The intersection was very busy. There were cars, motorcycles, rickshaws, and people everywhere and suddenly I was hit by the heatwaves and the ground was shaken and then I heard the blasts. Miraculously, I survived,” Abdullahi told Anadolu Agency.
The attack took place at the Zoobe intersection — one of the busiest in Mogadishu.
It was at this same junction that five years ago on Oct. 14, a truck laden with bombs exploded, killing more than 600 people. More than 1,000 others, mostly civilians, were wounded.
Ali Abdi Bulle, 37, a businessman in Mogadishu recounted that he was near a bank and was about to deposit money when the explosion erupted.
After the first attack, dozens of people rushed to the scene, Bulle said.
“The situation was chaotic, there was blood and debris everywhere. Then, security forces arrived and told us to go back,” he said, adding that shortly after that, a second bomb exploded in a massive blast.
“By the grace of Allah, I survived. But, seven of my close friends died on the spot,” Bulle said as tears welled up in his eyes.
– Hospitals under pressure
Journalists, students, traders, and security officials were among those killed in the attack, with Mogadishu’s already-fragile health facilities strained as they tended to the wounded.
Hospitals are overcrowded due to the high number of injured people and families taking care of them. While many others have flocked to them in search of their loved ones.
Somali authorities have formed a committee, led by Health Minister Ali Haji, to coordinate the emergency response after President Hassan Sheikh Mahamud called for international help following the terror strike.
Somalia has asked Türkiye, Egypt, neighboring Kenya, and Saudi Arabia to send doctors to treat the injured.
The Somali presidency said Mohamud had spoken to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who conveyed a message of condolence to the government and people of Somalia following the terrorist attack in Mogadishu. Both leaders reiterated the urgent need to root out international terrorism.
Due to years of conflict, Somalia has been rebuilding its health sector, though it remains weak as it struggles with hundreds of complicated emergencies.
Ayub Mohamed, a nurse at the Daarushifa hospital in Mogadishu, told Anadolu Agency that despite the country having a “very fragile” health sector, people united to help their brothers in need.
“After the attack, we saw young people uniting, organizing themselves, and going to hospitals to donate their blood but this isn’t enough,” Mohamed said.
The government also launched a blood donorship campaign to help hospitals deal with the wounded from Saturday’s attack.
The Health Ministry said it was a difficult job to provide air evacuation for the hundreds of injured.
Somalia lacks a national blood bank and private hospitals charge victims for transfusions.
– Türkiye condemns terror attack
Türkiye’s President Erdogan on Monday strongly condemned the “heinous” terrorist attack in Somalia.
“No reason can be an excuse for killing innocent civilians, children going to school, people praying in mosques,” he said.
“We condemn this vile and treacherous attack and wish our Somali brothers and sisters to get well soon,” Erdogan said, adding that Türkiye would continue to stand with Somalia in difficult times.
Somalia has been grappling with security threats for years, with al-Shabaab being one of its main concerns.
Since 2007, the al-Qaeda-affiliated terror group has waged a deadly campaign against the Somali government and international forces that have claimed thousands of lives.
The UN has warned of growing instability in the Horn of Africa nation, with its periodic reports on Somalia this year detailing attacks by al-Shabaab and groups aligned with the Daesh/ISIS terror group.
At least 1,242 civilians were killed in terrorist attacks in Somalia in 2018-2019, while 1,735 were injured, according to UN figures.