MOGADISHU (Reuters) - A year after their father was among nearly 600 Somalis killed in a fireball, the 32 children of Abdullah Mohamud plunged into poverty by his death are among the thousands still suffering the aftershocks what may be history’s deadliest suicide bombing.
A bomb-laden truck heading for a base of African troops exploded instead in the center of the Somali capital Mogadishu on Oct 14, 2017. The blast took place next to a fuel truck, creating a storm of flame that incinerated victims. Two other car bombs also detonated in the city.
The attack was far and away the deadliest to hit the country, which has experienced a quarter century of civil war, clan conflict and Islamist violence. Even many of those far from the epicenter of the explosion are still reeling from the effects.
“We are suffering a lot and we cannot cope, because we all depended on him,” said Nadifo Ahmed, one of the four wives who had depended for support on Mohamud, a livestock trader, who was killed in the blast.
With no breadwinner, the 32 children are effectively outcasts. They cannot afford school. They live in corrugated metal shacks, with no money for rent or medicine, she explained, seated on a mat under a tree, some of the children sitting quietly by her feet.
“Sometimes a relative may send me a small amount but it cannot fill the gap.... These are the burdens we are facing, and there is no one to help these families.”
The Islamist insurgency al Shabaab was blamed for the blasts. On Sunday, the anniversary of the explosion, the government executed a militant found guilty by a military court of participating in the attack plot.
Hundreds of residents wearing white and red headbands gathered at the site of the blast to commemorate the first anniversary of the attack and remember the dead. The headbands have become a symbol of public fury over the attacks and anger at the Islamist fighters blamed for them.
Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire unveiled a memorial to mark the attack at the site where bombed out buildings have since been rebuilt, one hosting a supermarket and a bank.
But survivors like Ali Mohamed have yet to rebuild their lives. Mohamed’s wife was killed in the explosion. He suffered severe burns across his head and body that shriveled one ear and deformed his hands. He was unable to work for six months and still panics when he hears loud noises.
“I cannot bear any kind of sounds, like the running of a car engine, or gun shots and so on. I cannot sleep unless I use sleeping pills and sometimes I stay up till morning.”
Abdulqadir Abdirahman, director of the city’s sole rescue service Amin Ambulance, had seen innumerable attacks over a 12-year career, but nothing prepared him for the devastation of that day.
“I saw what other people did not see,” he recalled. “A lot of people were bleeding and crying. A lot of cars were burning and buildings collapsing. I saw so many other things which I cannot ever forget.”
Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Peter Graff