Mogadishu-A massive car bomb exploded in a busy area of Mogadishu on Saturday, leaving at least 76 people dead, many of them university students, officials said.
However, Reuters later quoted at international organisation working in Somalia as saying that the toll was at least 90.
The blast occurred at a busy intersection southwest of the Somali capital where traffic is heavy because of a security checkpoint and a tax office.
The wounded were carried on stretchers from the site, where the force of the explosion left charred and twisted remains of vehicles.
Mogadishu is regularly hit by car bombings and attacks waged by Al-Shabaab Islamist militants allied to Al-Qaeda, but Saturday’s blast is the deadliest in about two years.
Many of those killed are believed to be university students whose bus was hit by the blast. Two Turkish nationals also died, police said.
“The number of casualties we have confirmed is 76 dead and 70 wounded, it could still be higher,” the director of the private Aamin Ambulance service, Abdukadir Abdirahman Haji, told
Police officer Ibrahim Mohamed described the explosion as “devastating”.
“We have confirmed that two Turkish nationals, presumably road construction engineers are among the dead, we don’t have details about whether they were passing by the area or stayed in the area,” he said.
Mogadishu’s mayor Omar Mohamud Mohamed told a press conference that the exact number of dead was not yet known, but that around 90 people were wounded.
“We will confirm the exact number of the number of the dead later but it is not going to be small, most of the dead were innocent university students and other civilians,” he said.
“This was a devastating incident because there were many people including students in buses who were passing by the area when the blast occurred,” said another witness, Muhibo Ahmed.
Sakariye Abdukadir, who was near the area when the car bomb detonated, said the blast “destroyed several of my car windows”.
“All I could see was scattered dead bodies… amid the blast and some of them burned beyond recognition.” No group has yet claimed the attack.
Mogadishu is regularly hit by attacks by Al-Shabaab, which has fought for more than a decade to topple the Somali government.