Armed group says it was targeting a Turkish convoy while government says it was planned ‘by a foreign country’.
The al-Shabab armed group has claimed responsibility for Saturday’s enormous car bombing in Somalia‘s capital Mogadishu that killed at least 81 people, while the national security agency said the attack “was planned by a foreign country.”
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.
Dozens 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 mujahideen carried (out) an attack … targeting a convoy of Turkish mercenaries and apostate militia who were escorting them,” al-Shabab spokesman Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage said in an audio message.
Among the dead were 16 students from the private Benadir University whose bus was passing through the crossroads as the bomb detonated.
Mogadishu is regularly hit by attacks by al-Shabab, which has fought for more than 10 years to topple the Somali government.
But for the first time, al-Shabab apologised to the civilian victims of the attack, which it justified as necessary in the 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.”
Al-Shabab does not usually claim attacks that cause such high casualty rates among the civilian population, for fear of losing the support they still enjoy with some Somalis.
The message also accused Turkey of trying to control Somalia’s resources. Among the casualties were Turkish nationals.
Turkey is a large donor and investor in Somalia, especially in humanitarian aid and reconstruction. Turkish companies manage Mogadishu’s port and airport.
Meanwhile, Somalia’s national security agency, Nisa, said that the attack was planned outside the country.
Nisa wrote in a tweet that it had given the government a preliminary report on the attack. It did not name the country and has not made the report public.
However, it added: “To complete the ongoing investigation, we will seek assistance from foreign intelligence agencies.”