‘Somalis must stand united and fight’

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed vowed to step up the war against al-Shabab, when he addressed thousands at a rally in Mogadishu on Wednesday for the victims of the city’s worst bombing.

Protesters wearing red bands around their heads marched through the site of the truck bombing, a once bustling district, before gathering at a stadium where they chanted: “We are ready to fight.”

Mogadishu’s residents, although wearily accustomed to regular bombs and attacks by al-Shabab, have been outraged by the strike on Saturday, which left at least 276 dead and 300 wounded.

There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the deadly blast, but al-Shabab — which is aligned to al-Qaeda — carries out regular suicide bombings in the capital city in its bid to overthrow Somalia’s internationally backed government.

The president, better known by his nickname Farmajo, said the attack “shows that we have not done enough to stop Shabab”.

“If we don’t respond to this now, the time will surely come when pieces of flesh from all of us are being picked up off the ground. We need to stand up together and fight al-Shabab [fighters] who continue massacring our people,” he said.

But it was unclear what Farmajo — who came into office eight months ago vowing to eliminate al-Shabab — planned to do to stop these attacks.

Similar protests took place in large towns in southern and central Somalia — a rare display of public outrage against al-Shabab, which still controls some rural areas after being pushed out of the capital in 2011.

“This attack seems to have united the people because everyone is angry now and needs to fight violence. There are thousands of young men, women and children out there protesting,” said one demonstrator, Abdulahi Mohamed.

“I think the ones who have masterminded this attack will not spare anyone … We need to stop these guys before they kill all of us,” said another protester, Ibrahim Mamud.

The attack has overwhelmed Somalia’s fragile health system, and allies from the United States, Qatar, Turkey and Kenya have sent planeloads of medical supplies as well as doctors, with all except the US also evacuating some of the wounded. — AFP

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