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Somalia marks 3 years since devastating Mogadishu bombing

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By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

MOGADISHU, Somalia - Somalia today marks the third anniversary of the worst terror attack on her soil which was engineered by Al-Qaeda linked group, Al-Shabaab, which left 632 people dead and 316 others wounded, in a raid which also eroded gains made in the fight against the militants.

A truck laden with explosives went off at the busy Zoobe junction in the capital Mogadishu, leaving the whole buildings, including hotels and government offices devastated. The October 14 attack in 2017 so far remains the worst in the history of the Horn of Africa nation.

The Al-Shabaab, which has been fighting the fragile UN-backed Somalia administration, never took responsibility for the attack, which left many civilians dead. It's not clear why the group targeted civilians, who they have persistently claimed that they are not usually on the radar for their retrogressive activities.

But on Sunday, authorities in Somalia executed a man who was linked to the deadly attack after years of trial by the military court. The attack remains the worst in the history of the world after that of 9/11 in the US, which left thousands dead both in New York and Washington DC.

Hassan Adan Isak was sentenced to death by firing squad by a court in the Somali capital on the anniversary of last October's truck bombing in Mogadishu that killed well over 500 people. He was convicted of the crimes and slapped with a death sentence by authorities, reports indicate.

Already, Hundreds of people, meanwhile, gathered at a ceremony to remember those killed in the attack, which was blamed on the Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group. The anniversary is being held across Somalia, which is still yet to eliminate terror groups, which have been terrorizing civilians in the country.

Memories of the bombing are still raw. A truck packed with explosives blew up at a busy intersection, destroying some 20 buildings in an apocalyptic scene. The attack was so devastating, the extremist group never claimed responsibility, but the group is associated with such cowardly attacks.

Isak, officials said, was the driver of a vehicle parked near an airport checkpoint shortly after the truck went off, and was arrested for suspicious behavior. The target of his attack was unclear and there were no casualties in the second blast.

'Advanced warning'

Security officials have admitted they had advance warning about an attack but had no idea about the large number of explosives it carried.

"We had been trailing the car bomb before it was detonated but it sped through a traffic jam and unfortunately reached the site," said Abdullahi Sanbalolshe, Somalia's former intelligence chief.

Al-Shabab Reconstruction of the area has begun but many buildings in the area still lie in ruins. A memorial tower has been erected in the middle of the intersection, the DW reported, but it's not clear if President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and top government officials will attend.

"In my mind, it feels like it happened just yesterday," said Sadiya Mohamed, a 49-year-old who lost her eldest son. He is among hundreds of people still missing. "I can barely get sleep since that dark day. He was everything for us," she said.

Omar Haji Mohamed, a disabled father who lost two children in the blast, urged the government to keep on top of security.

"I don't think commemoration would bring them back to me, but I hope nothing like the October tragedy happens again."

The US embassy in Mogadishu has tweeted: "Today, we remember the victims of the horrific October 14, 2017, terrorist attack in Mogadishu that killed 587 innocent Somali citizens & injured hundreds more. We mourn with the victims' families and stand with the people & government of Somalia in the fight against terrorism".

Also, the United Nations mission in the country today paid tribute to the victims and survivors of the horrific attack and reaffirmed the world body’s solidarity with all Somalis.

“Together with Somalis, the United Nations family is focused on the future and on continuing to build on progress towards peace, good governance, and prosperity”.  Advances since 2017 are a reflection of Somalis’ resilience and desire for a better tomorrow despite the scourge of violent extremism. The callous brutality of the attack on 14 October 2017 is not forgotten, however, and our thoughts remain with the families of those who lost their lives, as well as with the survivors,” said the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Somalia, James Swan.

Somalia has faced decades of deadly warlord-led chaos and more recently has endured dozens of attacks by al-Shabab. The United States has targeted the extremist group with dozens of airstrikes and increased its military presence in Somalia since early 2017 to about 500 personnel.

GAROWE ONLINE