NAIROBI, Kenya — The death toll from twin car explosions that rocked the capital of Somalia over the weekend, the most devastating terrorist attack to hit the country in five years, has risen to at least 100 people, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said on Sunday.
Emergency workers continued to pull bodies from restaurants and shops leveled by the blasts and remove the mangled remains of vehicles from the scene of the attack on Saturday in the capital, Mogadishu, that targeted the Ministry of Education, which is at a bustling intersection filled with government buildings, businesses and street vendors.
The attack highlighted multiple challenges facing Somali leaders: The government is under persistent threat from the terrorist group Al Shabab, which claimed responsibility for the attack, and is also trying to address rising energy and food costs and a looming famine.
“What sins did they commit? Why were these people killed?” Mr. Mohamud said as he visited the site early Sunday morning.
Nearly 300 people were also wounded in the attack, and Mr. Mohamud said that the authorities expected the casualty toll to increase. He urged the international community to provide medicine and doctors to help treat the wounded, and he called on the city’s residents to donate blood.
“It will not be possible for us to evacuate these large numbers of injured people abroad,” Mr. Mohamud said. “We need help as soon as possible.”
One journalist was killed and two others were injured as they rushed to cover the explosion, the Somali Journalists Syndicate said on Saturday.
Al Shabab, which means “The Youth” in Arabic, have wreaked havoc in the Horn of Africa nation for almost a decade and half, promising to topple the federal government and pursue their goal of establishing an Islamic state. They said they targeted the ministry because it plays a major role in educating students who join the Somali Army.
The group has lost territory and fighters in recent weeks, as the Somali government — receiving backing from African Union forces, the United States and several local clan militias — has declared an all-out war to defeat it.
The Qaeda-linked group has retaliated against this new onslaught by targeting government officials and buildings, as well as killing civilians and blowing up wells and cellphone towers in towns and villages populated by communities supporting the government’s push.
The attack on Saturday took place near the area where a devastating double-truck bombing killed nearly 600 people on Oct. 14, 2017. Memories of that bombing — along with other major attacks that happened close by — remain raw in the country, and many people on Sunday remembered the pain and sorrow that followed such attacks.
In hospitals in the capital, the authorities said many of the dead were unrecognizable even as weeping relatives desperately searched for their loved ones.
Mr. Hassan, flanked by top cabinet members on Sunday morning, remained defiant, promising to defeat Al Shabab and destroy their ability to carry out similar bombings in the future. “We will deny them the power, opportunity and chance to do something like this,” he said.
Hussein Mohamed contributed reporting from Mogadishu, Somalia.