Tragic truck explosion decimates checkpoint in central Somali town

Tragic truck explosion decimates checkpoint in central Somali town Tragic truck explosion decimates checkpoint in central Somali town
In this grab taken from video, smoke billows after an explosion in Beledweyne on Saturday, September 23, 2023 [AP Photo]

A devastating truck bomb explosion has rocked the central Somali town of Beledweyne, leaving a trail of destruction and a rising death toll.

Regional officials have confirmed that the number of fatalities has climbed to 18, with at least 40 people wounded in the attack. The town, located in the Hirshabelle state, has been targeted by armed groups as Somalia continues to grapple with security challenges.

Tragic truck explosion decimates checkpoint in central Somali town
In this grab taken from video, smoke billows after an explosion in Beledweyne on Saturday, September 23, 2023 [AP Photo]
Abdirahman Dahir Gure, the interior minister of Hirshabelle state, expressed his sorrow and announced the latest toll on Saturday. The explosion specifically targeted a security checkpoint located in a residential area, intensifying the impact on the local community. The loss of life and the number of casualties highlight the devastating consequences of this vicious attack.

Abdifatah Mohamed Yusuf, the director-general of the Hirshabelle Ministry of Humanitarian and Disaster Management, provided further insight into the severity of the incident. He revealed that 20 of the wounded have already been admitted to hospitals in Beledweyne, while an additional 20 are in critical condition, necessitating their urgent airlift to Mogadishu for advanced medical treatment. This tragic event has not only resulted in lives lost but has also placed a tremendous strain on local healthcare resources.

Eyewitness reports shed light on the horrifying nature of the attack. According to Abdikadir Arba, who was one of the first responders, the explosion was caused by a truck laden with explosive devices that forcefully passed through the government-manned checkpoint. A pickup vehicle, belonging to security personnel, desperately pursued the truck, only for it to detonate upon reaching its destination. Arba, who was approximately 200 metres away from the blast, recounted the chaos and devastation that followed.

The timing of this attack is particularly troubling, as the Somali government has recently escalated its efforts to combat the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab armed group. Security forces have been engaged in operations aimed at dismantling the group’s infrastructure and curbing their ability to carry out attacks. However, this tragic incident underscores the challenges faced by the government as it strives to maintain stability and security in the region.

The truck bomb explosion in Beledweyne serves as a grim reminder of the ongoing threats posed by armed groups in Somalia. As the nation battles these challenges, it is imperative for the international community to provide support and assistance to enhance security measures and promote peace and stability in the region. The tragic loss of life and the countless injuries sustained in this attack should galvanise global efforts to address the root causes of terrorism and work towards a lasting solution in Somalia.

Several videos have been shared on social media, some of which have been verified, depicting local residents searching for survivors amidst the rubble of destroyed buildings. According to police officer Ahmed Aden, buildings and shops in close proximity to the blast were reduced to rubble.

Halima Nur, a witness near the site, informed Reuters that her niece and others were in a nearby shop and could not be reached. She expressed her distress, stating that all kiosks were now just rubble and she was unable to trace her niece. No group has claimed responsibility for the explosion in the town located in central Somalia’s Hiran region, which has recently witnessed battles between the military and the al-Shabab armed group.

The al-Qaeda-linked group has increased attacks since Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud declared an “all-out war” on the group, which aims to overthrow the fragile internationally-backed government in Mogadishu. Government forces claimed to have killed dozens of fighters in the state of Galmudug on Friday.

The Horn of Africa country has been plagued by armed rebellion for 15 years, with the main threats emanating from al-Shabab and ISIS-linked (ISIL) armed groups. Although the al-Shabab armed group was driven from Mogadishu in 2011, it still controls swathes of the countryside.

President Mohamud, who has recently visited the front line, stated in August that government forces would “eliminate” the armed groups by the end of the year.

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