In a grim turn of events, a suicide bomber drove a loaded vehicle packed with explosives toward a security checkpoint in Beledweyne, Somalia on Saturday. This horrific act triggered a devastating explosion that resulted in a high death toll and numerous injuries, leaving scores trapped beneath the wreckage.
Emergency responders in central Somalia worked tirelessly to recover more bodies from the debris on Sunday, as buildings crumbled under the force of the truck bombing.
The exact number of casualties remains uncertain, as authorities informed AFP on Sunday that the death toll has surpassed the initial report of 13 fatalities. Sayid Ali, the deputy commander of the Beledweyne police station, stated, “The search and clearing operation is going on at the site of the explosion, and dead bodies were recovered this morning under the debris of some buildings. There are concerns the death toll may increase further.” The bomber deliberately targeted a bustling neighborhood filled with businesses and residential structures.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia expressed condolences for the victims and reaffirmed his commitment to eradicating the Al-Shabaab militants, who have been engaged in an insurgency against the fragile central government for over 15 years. He declared, “Incidents like this will never deter us from continuing to eliminate the… terrorists.”
No group has claimed responsibility for the devastating bombing, which follows the admission by Somalia’s beleaguered government of “several significant setbacks” in its ongoing battle against Al-Qaeda-linked militants.
According to Ahmed Yare Adan, a local police officer, the attack resulted in the deaths of at least 13 individuals and left 45 others injured. The seriously wounded were transported from Beledweyne to the capital city, Mogadishu, for medical treatment.
President Mohamud, who took office in May the previous year, vowed to wage an “all-out war” against Al-Shabaab. Despite their expulsion from Mogadishu in 2011, the group continues to exert control over vast rural areas.
The African Union deployed a force in Somalia in 2007, initially with a six-month mandate, but it remains on the ground to this day. United Nations resolutions call for the gradual reduction of the African Union Transition in Somalia (ATMIS) force to zero by the end of the following year, with security responsibilities transferring to the Somali army and police. However, this transition has proven challenging, leading the government to seek a postponement of the planned withdrawal of 3,000 ATMIS troops by the end of September.
In a letter addressed to the United Nations and seen by AFP, Somalia’s national security adviser noted that the government had made progress in reclaiming towns, villages, and crucial supply routes during its offensive. Still, they had encountered “several significant setbacks” since late August.