Death toll rises to 48, including MP in twin bombings in Somalia
BELEDWEYNE, Somalia - The death toll in Beledweyne bomb blasts has climbed to 48, HirShabelle state president Ali Gudlawe said on Thursday, after at least ten more people succumbed to their injuries in various hospitals moments after they were evacuated from the scene.
At least 108 others were wounded in the Al-Shabaab attack in the city which lies some 350 kilometers north of Mogadishu, the Somali capital.
According to officials, the first blast within the town killed outspoken legislator Amina Mohamed Abdi and her bodyguards outside the residence of HirShabelle regional President Ali Gudlawe Hussein at Lama-Galay military base in the evening.
The second attack, officials noted, targeted a military vehicle carrying the wounded people from the first blast to the hospital. The attack also claimed the life of former MP Hassan Abdi and a current candidate, who was within the vicinity of the town at the time of the attack.
HirShabelle state is yet to conduct elections for all Lower House seats and Ms. Amina Mohamed was on a campaign trail at the time of the attack that has been widely condemned by various stakeholders in the country and the international community.
Amina's body was flown to Mogadishu on Thursday for state burial.
Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble said the initial attack at Aden Adde International Airport which left six people dead and subsequent twin attacks in Beledweyne were "related" incidents and organized in terms of the "targets and timings".
Similarly, former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud ruled out terrorist participation in the Beledweyne attacks, adding that there is a need for international investigations. Outgoing President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo had claimed the attacks were "terror-related".
"There has been an increase in the number of targets on individuals who are voices for the public in recent times, and political space in Somalia has been closed," the ex-president said, just hours after former Hirshabelle President Mohamed Abdi Waare blamed the attack on Villa Somalia.
"Our thoughts are with all those affected by the attacks in Mogadishu and Beledweyne yesterday. We strongly condemn the use of violence to intimidate and disrupt the elections," added Kate Foster, UK envoy to Somalia. "The UK stands with Somalia in its fight against terrorism.'
General Stephen Townsend, the US Africa Command boss recently said he suspects the al-Shabab terror group in Somalia may now have the capability to strike Americans outside of Africa, including in the United States.
"I suspect that they do. That's not widely accepted in Washington or in the intel community, but my instincts as a commander are that they do," he said while addressing US senators.
In late 2020, then-President Donald Trump ordered most of the 800 U.S. troops out of Somalia in one of his last foreign policy moves in office. In the roughly 15 months since then, U.S. forces have continued to "commute to work," flying in and out of Somalia for missions while leaving fewer than 100 troops in the war-torn country.
"I think it's inefficient, it's certainly less effective. We're not there long enough to get momentum, and then we start over," he noted, adding that it also increases the risk to U.S. troops who must reestablish security each time they move in and out.
Somalia is facing a security and election crisis as the country missed several deadlines to complete the parliamentary election which almost 80% of the seats have been elected while the remaining in HirShabelle and Jubaland face challenges.