A car bomb ripped through a market in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Sunday, killing at least 39 people and injuring around 50, officials said, days after Somalia elected a new president.
The car was driven by a suicide bomber, said Ahmed Abdulle Afrax, the mayor of Wadajir district where the bombing happened.
“We carried 39 dead bodies and there were many others injured,” Dr Abdikadir Abdirahman, director of the Aamin ambulance service, told Reuters.
Madina hospital took in 47 injured people, said the manager, Dr Mohamed Yusuf.
The car was parked near a restaurant, and the blast went off at a busy time when shoppers and traders were gathered inside the market, said Ahmed Abdulle.
The powerful blast was the first major attack since Somalia’s new president was elected on February 8.
Witness Abdulle Omar said the market was destroyed.
“I was staying in my shop when a car came in into the market and exploded. I saw more than 20 people lying on the ground. Most of them were dead,” he said.
“Someone had parked the car here and left before it was detonated,” said Mohamed Haji, a butcher who suffered shrapnel wounds, pointing his finger at a clothes shop devastated by the blast.
Pieces of wood and metal sheets on the ground were all that remained of the shop.
Women sobbed and screamed outside the market as rescue workers were transported bloodied bodies and wounded victims into awaiting ambulance vehicles.
“It’s a painful carnage,” said Ali Mire, a government soldier who was helping a friend with multiple shrapnel wounds.
The blast occurred a few hours after Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabab, denounced the newly elected President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed as an “apostate” and vowed to continue fighting against his government.
Al Shabaab, the Islamist insurgent group that is fighting the UN-backed Somali government, did not immediately claim responsibility.
Al Shabaab has been able to carry out increasingly deadly bombings despite losing most of its territory to African Union peacekeepers supporting the Somali government.
Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed is a dual US-Somali citizen and a former prime minister.
Civil war has affected Somalia since 1991. Aid agencies warn that a severe drought has placed large swathes of the country at risk of famine.