In the town of Beledweyne, central Somalia, rescue workers are currently searching through debris to recover additional bodies following a truck bombing that resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen individuals and the collapse of multiple buildings.
A suicide bomber intentionally drove a vehicle filled with explosives toward a security checkpoint on Saturday, resulting in an explosion that trapped numerous people under rubble.
According to police, the death toll has risen above the previously reported 13 deaths and an exact number has yet to be provided.
Deputy Commander Sayid Ali of the Beledweyne police station mentioned that the search and clearance operation is ongoing at the explosion site and that bodies were found on Sunday morning beneath the debris of certain structures.
There is concern that the death toll could increase further, as the bomber targeted a busy neighborhood that housed both businesses and residential buildings.
Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud expressed condolences for the attack while also reiterating his determination to eradicate Al-Shabaab militants, who have been waging an insurgency against the fragile central government for over 15 years.
“Incidents like this will never discourage us from continuing to eliminate the…terrorists,” he stated.
Local police officer Ahmed Yare Adan informed AFP on Saturday that the attack had resulted in the deaths of 13 individuals and injuries to 45 others.
Somali Deputy Health Minister Mohamed Hassan stated on Saturday night that “approximately 13 seriously injured individuals were evacuated from Beledweyne tonight” and transported to the capital city of Mogadishu for medical treatment.
Since taking office in May of the previous year, Mohamud has pledged to wage a “full-scale war” against Al-Shabaab, who were expelled from Mogadishu in 2011 but still control large parts of the countryside.
An African Union force was deployed in Somalia in 2007 with a six-month mandate, but it remains in the country to this day.
United Nations resolutions demand that the African Union Transition in Somalia (ATMIS) force be completely withdrawn by the end of next year, with security responsibilities being transferred to the Somali army and police.
However, this goal has proven difficult, and the government is now attempting to postpone the planned reduction of ATMIS troops.
In August of the previous year, Somalia launched a major offensive against Al-Shabaab, enlisting the help of local clan militias in an operation supported by ATMIS troops and US airstrikes.
However, Somalia’s national security advisor recently sent a letter to the United Nations requesting a 90-day delay to the planned withdrawal of 3,000 ATMIS troops by the end of September.
In the letter, which AFP has seen, he mentioned that the government had “succeeded in liberating towns, villages, and crucial supply routes” during their offensive, but they had suffered “several significant setbacks” since late August.