Somali bombing’s toll rises past 270

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MOGADISHU, Somalia — When a double truck bombing shattered the night in Mogadishu on Saturday, rescue workers began the grim search for survivors that has become all too common as Somalia battles an Islamic insurgency. They picked through burned-out cars and hunted as best they could in a collapsed hotel.

But it was only on Sunday, as emergency workers pulled body after body from the rubble of a nearly leveled downtown street, that the magnitude of the latest attack came into focus. The numbers of dead surged from 20 on Saturday night to more than 270 and counting, according to government officials. More than 300 people were injured.

“This is the deadliest incident I ever remember” since the 1990s, when the government collapsed, a shaken Sen. Abshir Ahmed said in a Facebook posting.

The attack came as the United States under President Donald Trump has made a renewed push to defeat al-Shabab, Somali-based militants who have terrorized the country and East Africa for years, killing civilians across borders, worsening famine and destabilizing a broad stretch of the region.

While no one had yet claimed responsibility for the bombings, suspicion immediately fell on the group, which frequently targets the capital, Mogadishu.

Al-Shabab has lost much of its territory in Somalia in recent years, the result of attacks by African Union forces, a fitfully strengthening Somali army and increasing U.S. air power. But the group remains a potent killing force, despite years of U.S. counterterrorism operations.

Some of the militants have proclaimed allegiance to al-Qaida, while others support the Islamic State.

As the death toll grew Sunday, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declared three days of national mourning. He donated blood for the victims and asked his fellow citizens to do the same.

“Today’s horrific attack proves our enemy would stop nothing to cause our people pain and suffering. Let’s unite against terror,” Mohamed said on Twitter.

On Sunday, fires were still burning at the scene of the bombings. Ahmed, deputy speaker of the upper house of parliament, wrote on his Facebook page that the director of one hospital had told him at least 130 bodies there were burned beyond recognition.

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