US, UN slam Mogadishu bomb attack
Mogadishu - The United States and United nations have condemned a car-bomb attack on a government compound in Mogadishu which killed over 70 people in the deadliest attack by Somalia's Shabaab rebels.
Witnesses described the carnage from Tuesday's attack as the worst they had seen in Mogadishu since Somalia plunged into chaos two decades ago and said the devastation resembled scenes from World War II.
The suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into the compound housing four ministries at a strategic crossroads, two months after the al-Qaeda-linked rebels dismantled all their positions in the capital.
Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed condemned the attack which he said claimed "more than 70 people and [left] 150 injured; most of them were young students".
"I am extremely shocked and saddened by this cruel and inhumane act of violence against the most vulnerable in our society," he said in a statement.
"At this time, when the country is in the midst of a worsening humanitarian crisis, the enemy could not have attacked the Somali people at a worst time," the president added.
The International Committee for the Red Cross said about 90 people had been hospitalised at Mogadishu's Medina hospital.
Most of the casualties were reported to be civilians, with local residents saying the bomb went off as students were queuing for scholarships offered by Turkey.
Act of terrorism
The United States and United Nations were swift to join in the condemnation, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton describing the attack as a "cowardly act of terrorism" that "again demonstrates al-Shabaab's complete disregard for human life and Somalia's future".
United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon expressed shock at the deadly bombing.
"It is incomprehensible that innocents are being senselessly targeted," Ban was quoted as saying by spokesperson Martin Nesirky.
"The secretary general is appalled by the vicious suicide bomb attack targeting government offices and ministries in Mogadishu today."
Somali police spokesperson Abdullahi Hassan Barise said the attacker was a Kenyan national, but a Shabaab-owned radio denied the suicide bomber was Kenyan, identifying him instead as a Somali.
The scene of the attack looked "like something from World War II. This was total devastation", said local resident Abdullahi Aptidon.
"It was a powerful explosion and at first I thought it was a landmine, but the magnitude of the explosion made me imagine something different. This is the worst tragedy since civil war began in 1991."
According to witnesses, the bomber managed to sneak deep into Mogadishu under the cover of transporting displaced civilians from a nearby camp.
A Shabaab official who did want to be named said one of their fighters carried out the attack.
"One of our Mujahidin made the sacrifice to kill TFG officials, the African Union troops and other informers who were in the compound," he said.
Tuesday's attack was the deadliest by the Shabaab since multiple bombings in Kampala killed at least 76 people in July 2010.