Desperate Somalis searched for news of missing loved-ones on Monday, after a massive truck bomb in Mogadishu killed at least 276 people and left 300 injured in the deadliest ever attack to hit the conflict-torn nation.
Residents of the Somali capital, while wearily accustomed to regular bombs and attacks by Islamist militants, have been left stunned by the monster explosion Saturday which gutted surrounding buildings and left victims burned beyond recognition.
A statement from the information ministry on Monday said “276 people were killed in the blast… and 300 wounded were admitted at the different hospitals in Mogadishu.”
The government said it had set up an emergency committee to help relatives find the missing, with a crisis centre in the capital that residents can turn to.
Police official Ibrahim Mohamed told AFP that many of the victims were “burned beyond recognition” in what he described as “the deadliest attack ever.”
Turkey sent a military plane full of medical supplies to Mogadishu on Monday, also evacuating some of the injured for treatment.
The blast occurred at a junction in Hodan, a bustling commercial district which has many shops, hotels and businesses in the city’s northwest. Several experts told AFP the truck was probably carrying at least 500 kilogrammes (1,100 pounds) of explosives.
Abdulahi Nuradin was one of many helping friends and family hunting for news of the missing.
“It has been more than 24 hours now and we don’t have any traces or information about the sister of my friend. We can assume she is dead, with her flesh somewhere amongst the horribly burned dead bodies,” he told AFP.
“We went to several hospitals to seek any information but no to avail, the family is now 99 percent convinced she is dead, I saw so many severed pieces of human flesh at the hospitals, you cannot even look at them,” he added.
‘Devastation beyond imagination’
Local government official Muhidin Ali said more than 100 bodies who were impossible to identify had already been buried.
“The gruesome dead bodies were displayed at the hospitals for relatives but a few were recognised and most of them not at all, the devastation is something beyond the imagination of humankind,” he said.
There has been no immediate claim of responsibility, but the Shabaab, a militant group aligned with Al-Qaeda, carries out regular suicide bombings in Mogadishu in its bid to overthrow Somalia’s internationally-backed government.
The group has a history of not claiming attacks whose scale provokes massive public outrage.
The previous deadliest assault took place in October 2011, when a truck bomb targeting a government office left 82 dead and 150 injured.
Saturday’s blast, the worst in Somalia’s history, came six years after Shabaab militants were pushed out of Mogadishu by African Union and Somali troops.
While they were also pushed out of major towns across southern Somalia the militants still control rural areas and launch attacks on military, government and civilian targets in Somalia, as well as terrorist raids in neighbouring Kenya.
According to the Nairobi-based Sahan thinktank, at least 723 people were killed and over 1,000 injured in bomb attacks in 2016 in Somalia.
‘Targeting innocent people’
Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmajo, declared three days of mourning as he visited the attack site and then met with some of the wounded at a nearby hospital.
“Today’s incident was a horrible attack carried out by Al-Shabaab against innocent civilians that was not aimed at specific Somali government targets,” he said in a televised address to the nation.
“This shows how these violent elements are ruthlessly and indiscriminately targeting innocent people.”
Mogadishu’s mayor, Tabid Abdi Mohamed, also visited those wounded in the blast and said the horror of the attack was “unspeakable”.
“There is no tragedy worse than when someone comes to the dead body of their relative and cannot recognise them.”
Hundreds of people, chanting anti-violence slogans and wearing red or white bandanas around their heads in a show of grief, took to the streets of Mogadishu on Sunday to condemn the deadly attack that has shocked Somalians.
“We have seen what the terrorists can mercilessly do by shedding the blood of innocent civilians,” the mayor told the protesters after they ended their march at a square in southern Mogadishu. “We need to stand united against them”.
Activist Abukar Sheik added: “There is no house in which people are not crying today.”
A regional security expert said it was likely the truck bomb was triggered before it reached its true target.
The devastation caused was widespread. Muhidin Ali, a Mogadishu resident who was close by at the time said it was, “the biggest blast I have ever witnessed, it destroyed the whole area.”
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.
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani wrote on Twitter that the country’s embassy had been badly damaged in the blast and one of its top officials wounded.
Somali journalists and Red Cross workers were also among those killed.
Akwa Ibom Corps Member Slaughters Boyfriend
A corps member identified as Princess Odume, was on Monday arrested by the Akwa Ibom police command for the murder of a yet-to-be-identified man.
The young woman, who is said to be a graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, was stripped naked by neighbours of the victim who caught her trying to skip the fence with a machete.
The Akwa Ibom Police Public Relations Officer, Odiko Ogbeche-Macdon confirmed the victim was the alleged murderer’s lover.
He also said, “The police are investigating. The police have her in custody, she committed the act, but as I speak, an investigation is ongoing as to how and why she did it.”
COVID-19 Claims the Life of a House on the Rock Pastor
A House On The Rock pastor, Adeyinka Akinbami(61), lost his life to COVID-19 on Friday, the 8th of January, 2021.
The Senior Pastor, of the church, Paul Adefarasin, urged Nigerians to adhere to the COVID-19 protocols.
“Yesterday (Friday), I received the rude and shocking news of someone deeply dear to me and all of the HOTR family. The passing of Pastor Yinka Akinbami has become most painful because if there truly were good men, he was certainly one. To my brother, sleep well till we meet to part no more.
“Family, kindly allow me to solicit your intercession for his dear wife of over 30 years; Pastor Tolu, his children, his children-in-law, and grandchildren. We can only at best imagine how much pain they are feeling. We share the pain of his loss but they will feel it a lot more.
“It’s important to remind the community about the deadly nature of the COVID-19 and its mutant virus strains. Please do your part by following all the recommended precautions. That way, you are able to protect yourself and others who become proximal to you. God bless and keep us all”, Adefarasin Tweeted.
Buhari Appointed by ECOWAS to Champion COVID-19 Response
President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has been appointed the mantle of the COVID-19 response leadership by presidents under the Economic Community of West African States.
A statement by Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, in Abuja, said the appointment took place on Thursday, at the Extraordinary ECOWAS Summit on COVID-19, which was held via teleconference under the chairmanship of the President of the Republic of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou.
During the teleconference, Buhari was said to have called on fellow ECOWAS leaders to look beyond the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and tap into various opportunities that it presents for the betterment of lives in member states.
Buhari was quoted as saying, “In every challenging situation such as the current one, there are also opportunities. Our region must therefore seek to find those opportunities provided by this gloomy global outlook for its benefit by embarking on the implementation of such critical policies, which, before now, will be difficult to accept.”
While calling on his colleagues to intensify collaboration to save the region from “this deadly pandemic through sharing our experiences and best practices,” Buhari outlined some measures taken by his regime in response to the pandemic.
They include reduction of interest rates on all applicable Central Bank of Nigeria interventions from nine per cent to five per cent and introduction of a one-year moratorium on CBN intervention facilities. The inauguration of a presidential task force to coordinate national efforts to combat the spread of the virus and ensure efficiency and effectiveness in line with the Nigerian Action Plan on Health Security.
The President also stated that unprecedented economic uncertainties, including severe fiscal and foreign exchange constraints, amid a slowdown in global economic growth that most nations are grappling with, had made it imperative for “our sub-region to refocus on accelerating the implementation of our popular vision of ‘ECOWAS of the people’ by adopting progressive regional policies aimed at providing relief to our citizens.”
Buhari added, “At a time of global uncertainty such as this, caused by the devastating impact of the COVID-19, let me convey Nigeria’s solidarity with all the member states as we collectively battle to defeat the pandemic.
“I am greatly saddened by the loss of numerous lives and extend my heartfelt condolences to families of those who have lost loved ones throughout the region. I also wish infected victims speedy and full recovery.”
COVID-19: AU on Nigeria’s Behalf Seeks Debt Relief
The African Union, Nigeria office, has urged China, France, Japan and India to write off Nigeria’s debt or allow two-year abeyance on repayments.
It commended the International Monetary Fund for granting relief to 25 nations under its Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust to tackle the novel coronavirus.
The AU agency’s Nigeria Representative, Oba Olasunkanmi, in a statement in Abuja on Thursday, explained that as major lenders, they should also grant a reprieve to the Federal Government to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
It said, “Certainly, this will further assist the benefiting countries to significantly cushion the impact of the dreaded disease on their economies. Nigeria, at this time, needs support to enable it to recover from the financial impact.”
The AU further noted that it would be difficult for the nation to service the debts in the face of the economic realities imposed by COVID-19 “as the United Nations had projected that the world would need $1 trillion for continual existence.”
It noted, “Nigeria needs China’s support at this trying time, with the long and fruitful bilateral relationship between both countries which has led to Nigerian government owing China the debt of about $3.2 billion.
“We are faithful in payment of service charges. In 2019, Nigeria paid $138.8 million (N53.7billion) to EXIM Bank of China in settlement, the highest amount paid to any bilateral institution for the year.”
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