Mogadishu atrocity one of the most lethal acts of terrorism this century

The Guardian reports: The death toll in the bombing that hit the centre of Mogadishu on Saturday continues to rise, with more than 300 people now believed to have been killed and hundreds more seriously injured.

The scale of the loss makes the attack, which involved a truck packed with several hundred kilograms of military-grade and homemade explosives, one of the most lethal terrorist acts anywhere in the world for many years.

On Monday morning, Somalia’s information minister announced that 276 people had died in the attack with at least 300 people injured. Within hours, however, Abdikadir Abdirahman, the director of Amin ambulances, said his service had confirmed that 300 people died in the blast.

“The death toll will still be higher because some people are still missing,” Abdirahman told Reuters.

More victims continue to be dug from the rubble spread over an area hundreds of metres wide in the centre of the city. [Continue reading…]

Jason Burke writes: For many years, Somalia was a forgotten front among the various campaigns against violent extremist Islamists around the world.

The massive bombing of the centre of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, will bring the international spotlight back on to the battered country – at least for a few days.

Al-Shabaab, the tenacious and capable Islamist group based in the country, is almost certainly responsible for the huge truck bomb that killed as many as 300 people in Mogadishu on Saturday.

The attack proves once more it is among the most capable and tenacious militant organisations anywhere.

Al-Shabaab’s roots run back through a series of violent – and sometimes non-violent – revivalist Islamist movements in Somalia over the past 40 years. In the past decade, it has been fighting local, regional and international forces, and has survived significant strategic setbacks primarily by exploiting the weaknesses and failings of central government in the shattered state. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports: Earlier this year, the White House loosened the rules governing U.S. operations in the country, declaring parts of Somalia to be an “area of active hostilities.”

A one-star general was assigned to coordinate operations from a compound within Mogadishu’s airport. The small, elite teams of U.S. Special Operations forces in Somalia were augmented with conventional Army troops who provide a variety of training for the Somali forces.

The Pentagon refuses to say precisely how many Americans are deployed to Somalia — believed to be a few hundred at most — but Defense Secretary Jim Mattis indicated earlier this year that the Trump administration would consider sending more personnel if asked by the Somali president.

It’s unlikely, though, that the weekend’s attack will result in any substantial American military buildup. As in other unstable parts of Africa, the U.S. strategy in Somalia has been to support allied forces by sharing intelligence, providing training and equipment, and conducting precision airstrikes — but not doing the fighting for them. [Continue reading…]

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