Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed vowed Wednesday to step up the war against Al-Shabaab, as he addressed thousands at a rally in Mogadishu for the victims of the city’s worst-ever bombing.
Protesters wearing red bands around their heads marched through the scene of the truck bombing, a once bustling district, before gathering at a stadium where they chanted: “We are ready to fight”.
Residents of the Somali capital, while wearily accustomed to regular bombs and attacks by the Islamist militants, 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, but the Shabaab, a militant group aligned with Al-Qaeda, carries out regular suicide bombings in Mogadishu 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 Shabaab.”
“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-Shabaab who continue massacring our people,” he said.
However it was unclear what Farmajo — who came into office eight months ago also vowing to eliminate Shabaab — planned to do to stop the militants from carrying out such attacks.
Similar protests took place in large towns in southern and central Somalia — a rare display of public outrage against the Shabaab 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 US, 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.