SOMALIA: Bombing death toll tops 100; militants vow more attacks
REPORTING FROM JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA -- The death toll in Tuesday's suicide bomb attack on government buildings in Mogadishu has risen sharply to more than 100, according to the United Nations. Dozens more critically injured patients are hospitalized.
Most of the victims were students who had come to check examination results for scholarships to Turkey posted outside the government buildings by the Education Ministry.
Al Shabab, the Al Qaeda-linked militia fighting Somalia's weak transitional government, claimed responsibility and identified Bashar Abdullahi Nur as the suicide bomber. Ali Mohamed Raghe, a spokesman for Al Shabab, congratulated him Wednesday on a devastating attack.
The killer drove a truck laden with explosives into the front gate of a government compound housing several ministries and detonated a huge blast.
Nur gave an interview before the attack condemning the education system, the Associated Press reported. The interview was aired on a militant radio station after the blast.
"It will be a big blow to the heart of the enemy," he said in the interview. He criticized students aiming to study abroad, comments that suggest that Al Shabab intentionally targeted the students who had gathered to check exam results.
"Now those who live abroad are taken to a college and never think about the hereafter," he said. "They never think about the harassed Muslims.
"He wakes up in the morning, goes to college and studies and accepts what the infidels tell him, while infidels are massacring Muslims."
With many victims suffering severe burns, the number of fatalities will likely climb, medical staff fear.
"We have 167 injured people, some very serious; there are people with 60[%], 70% burns on their bodies," Dunio Ali Mohamed, head of the medical department at Medina Hospital, told IRIN, the U.N. reporting agency.
Abdirazaq Hassan Ali, director of Benadir hospital, told IRIN it was the worst casualties he had seen in two decades of civil war.
"Some people were burned beyond recognition," Ali said. "Others are fighting for their lives with most of their bodies burned."
He said the hospital was not able to provide the specialized care needed by burn victims.
Raghe, the Al Shabab spokesman, vowed to increase attacks "day by day" and warned civilians to stay away from government buildings and institutions.
Human Rights Watch on Thursday condemned the attacks and further threats of violence. It said Al Shabab had a history of attacks on educational institutions and students that may amount to war crimes.
These included attacks on educational institutions, forced recruitment of children from schools, and killings of teachers and students.
"Al Shabab's heinous attack in Mogadishu shows utter disregard for civilian life," said Daniel Bekele, HRW Africa director. "Al Shabab should immediately stop targeting civilians."
-- Robyn Dixon
Photo: A wounded patient waits at the airport in Mogadishu for a flight taking him and others injured in Tuesday's suicide bombing to Turkey for treatment Thursday. Credit: Farah Abdi Warsameh / Associated Press