Somalia’s decade-long battle against extremists hits grim milestone in huge blasts

The death toll from two truck bombs in Somalia’s capital soared to as many as 276 on Sunday as the deadliest attack in the country’s decade-long war with Islamist extremists signaled that the insurgency is far from defeated despite years of U.S. counterterrorism operations.

Nearly all of the dead were killed by the first bomb, which exploded Saturday outside a popular hotel near a busy intersection in Mogadishu, sending a plume of smoke into the sky that could be seen across the city. The second truck bomb killed several more people nearby.

The Somali capital is a frequent target of attacks by al-Shabab, an extremist group linked to al-Qaeda, but residents said they quickly discerned that the twin blasts were of a different order of magnitude.

The death toll continued to climb overnight. By Sunday night, officials said they were still trying to calculate the number of victims. In a radio address, the mayor of Mogadishu, Thabit Abdi, said, “We have lost more than 240 innocent people.” Somalia’s information minister said the death toll had risen to 276, the Associated Press reported.

A large swath of a city block appeared wiped out, and a tower of charred automobiles could be seen at the bombing site. A BBC reporter said people were trapped under the rubble of the Safari Hotel. Throughout Sunday, bodies were carried from the rubble.

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