Al-Shabaab, the Somali terror gang currently aligned with al-Qaeda, but increasingly believed to be tied to the Islamic State, attacked a minivan full of United Nations staff with a bomb this weekend. According to the UK Guardian, there were nine fatalities, including four representatives from UNICEF, the fabled United Nation’s children’s fund.
A statement from UNICEF said the attack was conducted with an IED, or Improvised Explosive Device. This usually means a type of roadside bomb, although, according to CNN, the local police chief said the bomber was inside the vehicle and died in the attack. Other reports have said the bomb was planted inside the van and detonated by remote control.
The van was in the middle of a three-minute drive from a guest house to the U.N.’s offices in the Puntland region of Somalia. The staffers reportedly hailed from several different countries: the Associated Press (AP) counted two Kenyans, one Ugandan, one Afghan, and three Somalis among the dead, while one American, one Sierra Leonean, one Ugandan, one Kenyan, and four Somalis were injured in the explosion.
“Images posted on social media showed a blood-spattered white vehicle, its windows shattered and the roof blown off by the blast in the region’s administrative capital Garowe on Monday,” writes the Guardian.
The AP report says the explosion occurred as the van was passing near the offices of the United Nations food agency, scattering human limbs around the scene. “A corpse leaned out of a window whose glass had been blown away, dripping blood onto the side of the van,” the AP writes.
“I condemn the attack this morning on the United Nations in Garowe,” said U.N. special representative Nicholas Kay via Twitter. “Shocked and appalled by loss of life. More details to follow.”
“Our colleagues dedicated their lives to working for the children of Somalia,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “They are not victims. They and those who were wounded are heroes. We mourn their loss and hope for the full recovery of the injured.”
“This attack is not just targeted at the United Nations, but in attacking UNICEF, Al-Shabaab has also attacked Somali children,” said Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. “It is an attack against the future of our country and I condemn it in the strongest possible terms.” The local police commander vowed to use “an iron hand” when dealing with al-Shabaab.
For its part, al-Shabaab has taken responsibility for the attack, both through a radio station in the area they control and with a statement to Reuters from a “military operations spokesman.” The militants are said to be intensifying their efforts in northern Somalia and looking to retaliate against African nations that have contributed to peacekeeping forces.