Turkey evacuates wounded after deadly Somalia blast

A young woman waits to be evacuated by Turkish military plane in Mogadishu, Somalia. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MOGADISHU (REUTERS) - A Turkish military cargo plane landed in the Somali capital on Sunday (Dec 29) to evacuate people badly wounded in a devastating truck bombing that killed at least 90 people including two Turkish nationals.

The plane also brought emergency medical staff and supplies, the Turkish embassy said in a tweet, adding these had been taken to a Turkish-run hospital in Mogadishu.

Somali Information Minister Mohamed Abdi Hayir Mareye told state media that 10 Somalis who were badly wounded in Saturday's blast would be evacuated to Turkey.

Turkey had sent 24 doctors to treat those wounded who would not be evacuated, he added.

Since a 2011 famine in Somalia, Turkey has been a leading aid provider to the country as Ankara seeks to boost its influence in the strategic Horn of Africa in competition with Gulf rivals like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Saturday's blast, at a busy checkpoint during rush hour in Mogadishu, was the deadliest in war-torn Somalia in more than two years.

No-one immediately claimed responsibility, although authorities blamed AlQaeda-linked Islamist group Al-Shabaab.

In an address on Saturday evening, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo said the group sought to kill innocent people and destroy infrastructure.

"The people and its government will never be demoralised from achieving our development goals and the rebuilding of our country," he added.

The dead included many students from a university in the city, authorities said.

A Reuters witness at Mogadishu airport saw 15 injured Somalis and the bodies of two dead Turks loaded on the plane.

The bombing was the 20th vehicle-borne explosives attack of 2019 in Somalia and the year is ending with more deaths from such attacks than 2018, according to the Hiraal Institute, a Mogadishu-based security think-tank.

Grieving families arranged burials and funerals on Sunday for their loved ones, having endured the anguish of identifying charred corpses and body fragments at the blast site and at hospitals around the city.

Speaking on Sunday in his weekly blessing in the Vatican, Pope Francis said: "Let us pray to the Lord for the victims of the horrible terrorist attack yesterday in Mogadishu... I am close to all the family members and those who are mourning."

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