Mogadishu — Somali leaders have vowed to persevere against al-Shabaab after a suicide car bomb near the Somali National Theatre in Mogadishu left 10 people dead and at least 14 injured on Monday (March 18th).
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud called the attack "barbaric", expressing his condolences to the victims and their families on behalf of the federal government.
"We can only presume at this stage that this cowardly attack is the work of al-Shabaab," Mohamud said in a statement released shortly after the blast. "They have been severely weakened and now resort to terrorism and murder of innocent Somali citizens. We must remain unified against them."
"Al-Shabaab/al-Qaeda forces have no place in this world and we will not allow them to have place in Somalia," he said. "We will ultimately defeat them."
Black smoke billowed from the scene of the attack as the wreckage of the car bomb and a white minibus burned. After the smoke cleared and Somali police secured the area, security forces and bystanders began removing the bodies of the dead and injured.
Most of the victims were passengers in the minibus that was passing near the location of the blast. The wounded were rushed to Madina and Daaru Shifa hospitals.
"We received eight wounded individuals and four deceased people," said Doctor Mohamed Yusuf, director of Madina Hospital. "One of the wounded people died while in surgery. Currently, there are seven wounded people admitted in the hospital, some of whom are seriously injured."
Five injured victims and three of the dead were taken to privately owned Daaru Shifa Hospital, Yasmin Omar, an emergency department worker, told Sabahi.
Mohamed Mohamud, a 28-year-old student who lives in Mogadishu, was in the vicinity when the explosion took place.
"I am deeply saddened by this explosion that happened in Mogadishu today," he told Sabahi. "Recently we had been experiencing renewed hope of progress and change. I would like to tell the perpetrators of this act to stop doing this to us."
Al-Shabaab claims credit:
Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the suicide attack, saying it had targeted the motorcade of Benadir National Security Agency commander Colonel Khalif Ahmed Ereg.
"The mujahideen were responsible for the attack against the non-believer Khalif Ereg," al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage told AFP. "Attacks against elements like him will continue until they are eliminated from the holy land of Somalia."
Speaking to the media after the blast, Ereg said the attack failed in its attempt and harmed innocent civilians in the process. He said he received minor injuries when the blast broke the windows of the car in which he was travelling.
"This is a criminal act carried out by anti-peace groups in an attempt to halt the peace and progress Somalis have been enjoying recently," Ereg said. "They will not be allowed to destroy that."
Journalists killed, injured:
One journalist was killed and three others injured in Monday's attack.
Radio Mustaqbal reporter Mohamed Ali Nuhurkey, 28, was one of several people sitting a cafeteria near the National Theatre at the time of the attack, according to Somalia's RBC Radio. He died in hospital from his injuries.
Freelance photographer Ilyaas Sheikh Ahmed, Radio Mustaqbal journalist Abdirashid Nur Ibrahim and Munasar Nur, who was working for Goobjoog radio, an independent station in Mogadishu, were wounded and admitted to Madina Hospital.
"On behalf of the Somali journalists, I send my sympathies and condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of late Mohamed Ali Nuhurkey," said Secretary General of the National Union of Somali Journalists Mohamed Ibrahim. "Somali journalists should be cautious and take safety measures to ensure their personal safety and remain vigilant following this horrific attack."
Nuhurkey was the second journalist killed in Somalia this year, according to Somalia's Horseed Media. On January 18th, armed gunmen killed radio presenter Abdihared Osman Adan of the Shabelle Media Network in Wadajir district.
Attack will not stop progress:
Somalia's recovery is too far advanced for it to be derailed by this "futile" attack, Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon said.
"The truth is that daily life is more peaceful and Mogadishu is more secure than it has been for over 20 years," he said. "These misguided attempts to derail us will have no effect. We have made far too much progress to regress to the bad old days. Peace, stability and business are the order of the day."
"This was a callous attack on innocent Somali civilians," said Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia Ambassador Mahamat Saleh Annadif.
He said Mogadishu has been experiencing its longest period of relative peace in two decades, which has given Somalis the opportunity to begin to rebuild their lives.
"[The African Union Mission in Somalia] is committed to assisting Somalia to safeguard the security of its citizens and we will continue to support the efforts to build up the capacity of the Somali National Security Forces and to rid the country of the al-Shabaab threat," he said.
Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Somalia Augustine Mahiga said the attack was "entirely unacceptable".
"Somalia has made great strides forward on the path of progress and stabilisation and these cowardly terrorist attacks will only reinforce the determination of the Somali people to persevere," he said.
Reward for information:
Somali National Security Agency Chief Ahmed Moalim Fiqi said a reward would be provided to anyone with information on terrorist activities, but did not offer specifics.
"Al-Shabaab are demoralised, they are defeated, [but] they do not want peace to take hold in Somalia," he said, vowing renewed efforts to end the group's terror activities in Somalia. "Security forces are righteously fighting al-Shabaab, they are in the wrong and we are in the right."