Two car bombs exploded on Saturday at a busy intersection in Somalia’s capital near key government offices, causing “multiple civilian casualties,” including children, national police said. One hospital worker counted at least 30 bodies amid fears there could be many more.

The attack in Mogadishu came on a day when the president, prime minister and other senior officials were meeting to discuss expanding efforts to combat violent extremism, particularly the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab group, which frequently attacks the capital. This also happened five years later another powerful explosion more than 500 people died in the same place.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene said the second explosion occurred in front of a busy restaurant at lunchtime. The explosions destroyed tuk-tuks and other vehicles in the area of ​​many restaurants and hotels. He saw “many” bodies and said they were civilians traveling on public transport.

Car bomb explosions in Somalia
The scene after two car bomb explosions in Mogadishu, Somalia, on October 29, 2022.

Abukar Mohamed Muhuddin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

There was no direct responsibility. Al-Shabaab rarely claims responsibility for attacks that kill as many civilians as it did in the 2017 blast. But President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud blamed al-Shabaab, calling the attack “brutal and cowardly.”

Hassan Osman, a volunteer at Medina Hospital, said that “out of a total of at least 30 dead people who were brought to the hospital, most of them are women. I saw it with my own eyes.”

In the hospital and elsewhere, distraught relatives peered under plastic wrap and into body bags, looking for loved ones.

Aamin Ambulance Service said it had collected at least 35 injured. One ambulance that responded to the first attack was destroyed by the second blast, director Abdulkadir Adan added on Twitter.

“I was 100 meters away when the second explosion happened,” said witness Abdirazak Hasan. “I couldn’t count the bodies on the ground because of the (number of) dead.” According to him, the first explosion thundered along the perimeter of the wall of the Ministry of Education, where street vendors and money changers were located.

The Somali Syndicate of Journalists, citing its colleagues and the police, said one journalist was killed and two others wounded in a second blast as he was rushing to the scene of the first.

The terrorist attack took place at the Zobe junction, where an al-Shabaab truck bombing took place in 2017, killing more than 500 people.

Somalia’s government has launched a high-profile new offensive against the extremist group, which the United States has named one of al-Qaeda’s deadliest organizations. The president described it as “all-out war” against the extremists, who control much of central and southern Somalia and have been the target of dozens of US airstrikes in recent years. The extremists responded by killing prominent clan leaders in an apparent attempt to withdraw support for the government offensive.

On October 22, US troops carried out an airstrike against al-Shabaab terrorists who attacked Somali National Army forces in the vicinity of Bulabardeh, which is about 135 miles from Mogadishu. As a result of the strike, two terrorists of the Al-Shabaab group were killed.

US troops in Somalia number less than 500 troops since May, when President Biden approved the Pentagon’s request to return troops to the war-torn country, reversing former President Donald Trump’s decision in January 2021 to withdraw the larger contingent of 750 troops stationed there. After taking office, Trump initially expanded airstrikes in the region, but in December 2020 ordered troop reductions.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre said the attack would not weaken the public uprising against al-Shabaab, and he and the president expressed the government’s determination to destroy the extremist group.