Al-Shabaab Islamist militants have claimed responsibility for Saturday’s massive car bomb in the Somalian capital that killed 81 people, including two Turkish citizens.
The attack hit a busy checkpoint in the southwest of the city, leaving vehicles charred and twisted at a crossroads in the deadliest assault in two years in the Horn of Africa country.
Scores more were wounded in an area clogged with traffic because of the security checkpoint and a tax office collecting fees from trucks and buses.
“The mujahidin carried [out] an attack... targeting a convoy of Turkish mercenaries and apostate militia who were escorting them,” al-Shabaab spokesman Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage said in an audio message on Monday.
Among the dead were 16 students from the private Banadir State University whose bus was passing through the crossroads as the bomb detonated.
Mogadishu is regularly hit by attacks by al-Shabaab, which has fought for more than a decade to topple the Somali government.
For the first time, al-Shabaab apologised to the civilian victims of the attack, which it justified as necessary in fight against the Somali state and its foreign backers.
“We are very sorry about the casualty that was inflicted on our Somali Muslim society, and we are extending our condolences to the Muslims who have lost their lives and or [were] wounded and or had their property destroyed,” the spokesman said.
Al-Shabaab does not usually claim attacks that cause high casualty rates among the civilian population, for fear of losing the support it still enjoys with some Somalians.
The message also accused Turkey of trying to control Somalia’s resources. Turkey is a major donor and investor in Somalia, especially in humanitarian aid and reconstruction. Turkish companies manage Mogadishu’s port and airport.
“The Turks are our enemies and as we have said before, we will not stop fighting until they withdraw from our lands,” the spokesman said.
The death toll increased to 81 on Monday after two victims died from their wounds, the Somalian Ministry of Information said.
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