Mogadishu checkpoint blast kills at least 61 – ambulance official

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MOGADISHU (Reuters) – An explosion at a busy checkpoint in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Saturday killed at least 61 people and wounded dozens, an ambulance service official said, the latest in a string of deadly attacks.

A general view shows the scene of a car bomb explosion at a checkpoint in Mogadishu, Somalia, on December 28, 2019. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Rescuers carried dead bodies past the twisted wreckage of a vehicle and minibus taxis smeared with blood.

“So far, we’ve carried 61 dead people and 51 others injured. There are more casualties and the death toll is sure to rise,” Abdikadir Abdirahman Haji Aden, founder of Aamin ambulances, told Reuters.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast though al Qaeda-linked Islamist group al Shabaab, which is trying to topple the U.N.-backed government, regularly carries out such attacks.

The Horn of Africa country has been riven by conflict since 1991, when clan warlords overthrew dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other.

After the sound of a huge blast at the Ex-Control checkpoint, 55-year-old Sabdow Ali, who lives nearby, said he left his house and counted at least 13 people dead.

“Dozens of injured people were screaming for help but the police immediately opened fire and I rushed back to my house,” he told Reuters.

The injured were transported to Medina Hospital, where a Reuters witness saw dozens arriving by ambulance from the scene.

Speaking to reporters at the blast site, Mogadishu Mayor Omar Muhamoud said the government confirmed at least 90 civilians, mostly students, had been injured in the explosion.

The police were not reachable for comment on casualty numbers.

Reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Additional reporting by Feisal Omar; Writing by Maggie Fick and David Clarke; Editing by Jan Harvey and Frances Kerry

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