Somalia calls for blood donations after bombing

Turkish paramedics tending to wounded Somalis who were flown to the Etimesgut military airport in Ankara on Monday. Turkey is providing medical support as Somalia finds itself ill-equipped to handle the crisis.
Turkish paramedics tending to wounded Somalis who were flown to the Etimesgut military airport in Ankara on Monday. Turkey is providing medical support as Somalia finds itself ill-equipped to handle the crisis.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NAIROBI • Somalia is in desperate need of donated blood to treat survivors of a truck bombing in the capital Mogadishu last Saturday that killed more than 300 people and injured at least 400 others, a minister said.

The bombing was one of the worst such attacks in Somalia. Officials said it bore the hallmarks of the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab group, but it has not claimed responsibility.

Information Minister Abdirahman Omar Osman said Somalia does not have a blood bank and that the limitations of its healthcare system were impeding the medical response. Countries including Turkey and Qatar are providing medical assistance.

"We are requesting blood, we are requesting assistance for verifying the dead in order for their relatives to know," Mr Osman told Reuters by phone from Mogadishu.

Somalia has been mired in conflict since 1991, when clan warlords overthrew a dictator and then turned on each other. One of the poorest countries in Africa, it faces severe food insecurity and relies on foreign donors to support its institutions and basic services.

Mr Osman said the bodies of more than 100 people buried on Monday "were blown beyond recognition", and that he hoped other bodies could still be identified.

Turkish doctors - mainly surgeons and specialists in spine injuries - arrived along with Turkey's Health Minister on Monday. "They are treating people in hospitals in Mogadishu," said Mr Osman.

Turkey evacuated 35 critically wounded Somalis to Ankara by plane on Monday, the country's Deputy Prime Minister Recep Akdag told reporters upon returning from Somalia.

An increasingly close ally of Somalia, Turkey opened a US$50 million (S$68 million) military base in the capital last month.

Medicine from neighbouring nations Djibouti and Kenya arrived by plane yesterday and an air ambulance was en route from the Gulf state of Qatar, said Mr Osman.

Qatar would be evacuating 25 more injured people to a hospital in Sudan.

The government has come under intense criticism for a conspicuous policing failure that helped enable the truck bombers.

The bombings were carried out by drivers of two trucks, crammed with explosives, who drove through multiple checkpoints on a tightly patrolled highway. Their easy access raised questions over whether Al-Shabab infiltrators had compromised security.

"No one likes to talk about this, partly because it's difficult to quantify," said Dr David Anderson, professor of African politics at Warwick University in Britain. "It's widely accepted that most of the institutions and organs of the Somali state are infiltrated by the Shabab."

The bombings also highlighted divisions within the government, particularly the security services, and the weakness of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who came to power eight months ago.

REUTERS, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2017, with the headline 'Somalia calls for blood donations after bombing'. Print Edition | Subscribe