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Mogadishu reels as truck bomb toll hits 137

A picture taken on October 15, 2017 shows a general view of the scene of the explosion of a truck bomb in the centre of Mogadishu. AFP PHOTO

Mogadishu, Somalia | AFP |  The death toll from a massive weekend truck bomb in a busy shopping district of Mogadishu surged to at least 137, police said Sunday, warning it could rise further after one of the worst-ever attacks to hit war-torn Somalia.

The figure was a huge jump from an initial police estimate of 20 dead in the hours after the deadly explosion ripped through the Somali capital on Saturday, causing scenes of carnage and widespread devastation.

“We are getting different numbers in terms of the casualty from the medical centres, but we have confirmed so far 137 (dead), most of them burned beyond recognition, police official Ibrahim Mohamed told AFP.

“The death toll could be higher because there are more than 300 wounded, some of them seriously,” he said, describing it as “the deadliest attack ever.”

Rescuers worked through the night to try to pull bodies from the rubble after the truck bomb exploded outside of the Safari Hotel on a busy road junction, levelling buildings and leaving many vehicles in flames.

In a posting on Facebook, the deputy speaker of the Somali Senate suggested there was evidence the toll could be well over 200. (see history of Mogadishu bomb attacks page 2)

“We visited Medina hospital where the director told us that 218 dead bodies were admitted the hospital since yesterday,” wrote Senator Abshir Ahmed, saying the hospital chief had told them 130 of the bodies had been “burned beyond recognition.”

“This is the most painful incident I can remember.”

There has been no immediate claim of responsibility, but the Shabaab, a militant group aligned with Al-Qaeda, has carried out dozens of suicide bombings in its bid to overthrow Somalia’s internationally-backed government.

Mogadishu’s mayor Tabid Abdi Mohamed also visited those wounded in the blast, saying he lacked words to describe what he had seen.

“What I have seen at the hospitals I have visited is unspeakable,” he said, calling on everyone to help in the rescue efforts.

“There is no tragedy worse than when someone comes to the dead body of their relative and cannot recognise them.”

– ‘Unprecedented tragedy’ –

The explosion occurred at a junction in Hodan, a bustling commercial district which has many shops, hotels and businesses in the city’s northwest.

Security officials said hundreds of people had been in the area at the time of the blast, with police saying it was difficult to get a precise number of victims because the bodies had been taken to different medical centres while others had been taken directly by their relatives for burial.

Security official Abdukadir Muktar earlier said hundreds of people had been either wounded or killed in the blast, saying that it went off at “a densely-populated intersection, so you can imagine the magnitude of casualties it could cause.”

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