At least 61 people killed in Mogadishu checkpoint blast, says Ambulance official

Mogadishu (Reuters) – At least 61 people were killed and dozens were wounded in an explosion at a bustling checkpoint in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Saturday, an ambulance service official said, the latest in a string of deadly attacks.

Rescuers carried dead bodies past the twisted wreckage of a vehicle and a minibus taxi smeared with blood.

“So far, we’ve carried 61 dead people and 51 others injured. There are more casualties and the death toll is sure to rise,” Abdikadir Abdirahman Haji Aden, founder of Aamin ambulances, told Reuters.

No-one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast.

Al Qaeda-linked Islamist group al Shabaab regularly carries out such attacks in an attempt to undermine the government, which is backed by the United Nations and African Union troops.

The most deadly attack blamed on the group was in October 2017 when a bomb-laden truck exploded next to a fuel tanker in Mogadishu, creating a storm of fire that killed nearly 600 people.

While al Shabaab carries out frequent attacks, the death tolls are often lower than in Saturday’s blast. The group has sometimes not claimed responsibility for attacks that sparked a big public backlash, such as a 2009 suicide bombing of a graduation ceremony for medical students.

After the explosion at the Ex-Control checkpoint, 55-year-old Sabdow Ali, who lives nearby, said he left his house and counted at least 13 people dead.

“Dozens of injured people were screaming for help but the police immediately opened fire and I rushed back to my house,” he told Reuters.