News / Winnipeg

'All Somalis are horrified': Refugee reaches out to loved ones following Mogadishu attack

At least 276 people were killed and 300 more injured following the deadly attack in Somalia's capital.

Somali security forces and others gather and search for bodies near destroyed buildings at the scene of Saturday's blast, in Mogadishu, Somalia Sunday.

Farah Abdi Warsameh / AFP

Somali security forces and others gather and search for bodies near destroyed buildings at the scene of Saturday's blast, in Mogadishu, Somalia Sunday.

A Somali refugee in Winnipeg is still trying to contact a family relative who was injured in a massive bomb attack that killed at least 276 people in the nation’s capital Saturday.

Abdikheir Ahmed, director of the Immigration Partnership Winnipeg Program, said his wife’s nephew was at the Safari Hotel when a truck carrying a bomb exploded in a crowded area of the city.

The hotel, which is close to Somalia’s foreign ministry, was largely reduced to rubble. Rescue workers searched for survivors trapped under the debris. At least 300 people were injured.

Ahmed received a call from another relative about the attack Saturday. He learned that his wife’s nephew, an accountant, suffered a hand injury.

“I was told he was being lifted to Nairobi,” he said. “That’s a very mild thing compared to [276] people dying. Almost everybody who lives in Mogadishu, at least, knows or is related to someone who died. It’s terrible.”

Ahmed has yet to make contact with his wife’s nephew, or get through to other acquaintances in Somalia.

“The network in Mogadishu has been very difficult to get through. I think because of everybody trying to call.”

Ahmed fled civil war in 1991 and lived in Kenya before moving to Canada in 2003. While the city is has experienced deadly bombings by extremist group al-Shabab, Saturday’s attack has been named the most powerful modern attack in the nation’s capital. The militant group, which has links to al-Qaida, has yet to claim responsibility.

“We’ve never known this issue of suicide bombing. It’s not in our culture,” Ahmed said. “It’s a foreign thing, imported. Somalis are trying to grapple with this foreign phenomenon that has become part of our society in the last seven, eight years.”

According to census data, 1,225 people in Winnipeg speak Somali as their first language. Ahmed estimates there are about 3,000 people from his home country living in the city.

With the recent election of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, Ahmed said the diaspora was hopeful.

“There was a lot of optimism among all Somalis across all the world for a return to order in Somalia. People were talking about moving back and the rebuilding of the country,” he said, noting that the United Nations envoy for Somalia moved his office back to the country’s capital from Nairobi.

“All Somalis are horrified here and everyone is worried about the way forward.”

With files from Torstar News Service

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