SOMALIA: Dozens killed in Mogadishu suicide bombing
This post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom for details.
REPORTING FROM JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA -- Dozens of people, including students waiting for test results, were killed Tuesday in a suicide bombing in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. It was the worst violence since Al Shabab militants abandoned the city to government forces in August.
The Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabab rebel group, which controls the country's famine-stricken south, claimed responsibility for the bombing, agencies reported. It would be the group's biggest single attack inside Somalia.
A suicide bomber driving a truck laden with explosives detonated his cargo after stopping at a checkpoint outside a Mogadishu compound housing several government ministries, including the Education Ministry. The blast occurred in the Kilometer Four district.
Most of those killed or injured were soldiers guarding the compound or students waiting for the results of an examination for scholarships to Turkey, according to rescue workers. Members of the U.N.-backed transitional government were meeting in the building at the time of the attack.
Ambulance coordinator Ali Muse told news agencies that 70 people were killed and at least 42 were injured. "Some are still lying there. Most of the people have burns," Muse said.
Rescue workers were trying to free victims trapped in damaged buildings, according to reports. Reuters reported that dozens of people who had been burned in the attack had to walk to a nearby hospital after the blast.
The transitional federal government (TFG), supported by African Union forces, took control of the capital after Al Shabab fighters left in August. It said no senior government officials were hurt in the bomb attack.
"The attack shows that the danger from terrorists is not yet over and that there are obviously still people who want to derail the advances that the Somali people have made toward peace," the government said in a statement.
Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991, despite numerous attempts to establish one. The weak transitional government recently announced a plan for presidential and parliamentary elections within a year.
Somalia is the worst hit country in East Africa's unfolding hunger crisis. The U.N. has declared famine in six regions of Somalia, mainly in the south, as the country faces its worst drought in decades.
For the record, 11:05 a.m, Oct. 4, 2011: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that students were waiting to take an examination. They were waiting for the results.
-- Robyn Dixon
Photo: Somalian government soldiers carry a man killed during a suicide attack in Mogadishu. Credit: Omar Faruk / Reuters