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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Death toll from blast in Somalia's capital rises to 137

President declares three days of mourning as hospitals appeal for blood for more than 300 injured

Somalis remove the body of a man killed in a blast in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia on Saturday. Farah Abdi Warsameh / The Associated Press
Somalis remove the body of a man killed in a blast in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia on Saturday. Farah Abdi Warsameh / The Associated Press

The death toll from Saturday's truck bombing in a shopping district in the Somali capital Mogadishu surged to at least 137 with 300 people injured, police said on Sunday.

"We are getting different numbers in terms of the casualty from the medical centres, but we have confirmed so far 137, most of them burned beyond recognition," said police official Ibrahim Mohamed.

"The death toll could be higher because there are more than 300 wounded, some of them seriously," he said.

"It is very difficult to get a precise number because the dead bodies were taken to different medical centres and some of them directly by their relatives for burial."

The blast struck on Saturday afternoon at a busy road junction in Hodan, a bustling commercial district of shops, hotels and businesses in the city's north-west, reducing buildings to heaps of rubble and leaving vehicles in flames. Overnight, rescue workers with torches searched for survivors trapped under the rubble of the Safari Hotel, which was largely destroyed. The hotel is close to Somalia's foreign ministry. The explosion blew off metal gates and blast walls erected outside the hotel.

Mr Mohamed said it was "the deadliest attack ever" in this war-torn east African country.

Somalia's government has blamed the Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabab extremist group for the attack it called a "national disaster". However, Al Shabab, which often targets high-profile areas of the capital with bombings, had yet to comment.

"They don't care about the lives of Somali people, mothers, fathers and children," prime minister Hassan Ali Khaire said. "They have targeted the most populated area in Mogadishu, killing only civilians."

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declared three days of mourning and joined thousands of people who responded to a plea by hospitals to donate blood for the wounded victims.

"I am appealing all Somali people to come forward and donate," he said.

Many victims died at hospitals from their wounds, said police Capt Mohamed Hussein.

"What I have seen at the hospitals I have visited is unspeakable," said Mogadishu mayor Tabid Abdi Mohamed.

Somalia's information minister, Abdirahman Omar, said the blast was the largest the city had ever seen.

"It's a sad day. This how merciless and brutal they are, and we have to unite against them," he said.