Pope Francis raised his voice on behalf of the hundreds of Somalis who were slaughtered allegedly by Islamist terrorists last Saturday, calling the act a massacre that “deserves the strongest condemnation.”
Although no group has yet stepped forward to take responsibility for the attack, Somali citizens marched through the streets of Mogadishu in protest against al-Shabaab, Somalia’s native Islamist terror group affiliated with Al Qaeda, convinced that no one else could have perpetrated the massacre.
Certain media have noted that the attack followed on a stepped-up U.S. campaign against al-Shabaab in the country, suggesting that it constituted retaliation by the jihadists. Earlier this year, Al-Shabaab vowed to increase its attacks on the population after new military efforts began against the group.
Militants detonated a massive truck bombs filled with military-grade and homemade explosives Saturday, in the country’s deadliest massacre since the rise of the al-Shabaab Islamic terror group a decade ago, and one of the most lethal terrorist acts anywhere in the world in many years. The damage was so extensive that hospitals ran out of blood and antibiotics to treat the hundreds of wounded.
In his message of solidarity, delivered at the end of his General Audience in Saint Peter’s Square Wednesday morning, Pope Francis noted that the deplorable attack had caused “more than 300 deaths, including some children.”
“This terrorist act deserves the strongest condemnation, and has fallen upon on a population that has already been sorely tried,” Francis said. “I pray for the dead and for the wounded, for their family members and for all the people of Somalia. I pray for the conversion of the violent and encourage those who, with great difficulty, work for peace in that battered land.”
A number of observers have decried the lack of media response to the tragedy, noting that no slogans of support had trended on social media, the way they do when tragedies of this kind hit Western populations.
“I hate comparing human tragedies, but the mainstream media makes you do it,” Khaled Beydoun a Law professor in Detroit, posted on Facebook. “There are no slogans claiming ‘we are Mogadishu’ and no catchy images floating around social media demonstrating solidarity.”
Another commenter tweeted that Western media clearly aren’t very concerned with the “poor brown folks” who live in a country that doesn’t offer them much, concluding his tweet with #IAmMogadishu.
The U.S. mission to Somalia called the attack “cowardly,” adding that they serve to “reinvigorate the commitment of the United States to assist our Somali and African Union partners to combat the scourge of terrorism.”
Somalia’s president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, called for three days of national mourning, while urging citizens to donate blood for the wounded. “I am appealing to all Somali people to come forward and donate,” he said.
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