Sat | Dec 16, 2017

Final death toll in Somalia’s worst attack is 512 people

Published:Sunday | December 3, 2017 | 10:38 AM
FILE - In this Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017 file photo, Somalis remove the body of a man killed in a blast in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia.

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — The final death toll in October’s massive truck bombing in Somalia’s capital is 512 people, according to the committee tasked with looking into the country’s worst-ever attack.

The final toll is a dramatic increase from previous estimates of more than 350 killed. The committee’s report, obtained by The Associated Press, says another 312 people were wounded in the Mogadishu bombing and 62 people remain missing.

Only a few attacks since the ones on Sept. 11, 2001 have killed as many people, according to the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland.

Somalia’s government has blamed the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group for the Oct. 14 attack, which struck a crowded street. Security officials said the bomb weighed between 600 kilograms and 800 kilograms (1,300 pounds and 1,700 pounds) as the extremist group’s bomb-making capabilities grow.

The attack appalled Somalis, with some calling it their “9/11.” The hundreds of wounded overwhelmed Mogadishu’s hospitals, where many people defied traditional hesitations and rushed to donate blood. Bewildered family members picked through the rubble days afterward as hopes of finding survivors faded.

Thousands of Somalis later marched through the capital in defiance against the extremist group, while the Somali-American president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, announced a new military offensive and asked regional neighbours for assistance.

Al-Shabab, which was pushed from the capital years ago but controls large parts of rural southern and central Somalia, often attacks high-profile areas in Mogadishu. Somali intelligence officials have said the massive truck bomb was meant to target the heavily guarded airport, where several countries have embassies, but instead detonated in the crowded street after soldiers opened fire and flattened one of the truck’s tires.

The Islamic extremist group, the deadliest in Africa, has been targeted this year by nearly 30 U.S. military drone strikes after the Trump administration approved expanded operations against it and declared the southern part of the Horn of Africa nation a zone of active hostilities. The U.S. now has more than 500 military personnel in Somalia.