December 28, 2019 / 5:34 PM / 2 months ago

From newlywed to widow on a deadly morning in Mogadishu

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Her ears still ringing from the deafening sound of an explosion near her home in the Somali capital on Saturday morning, 18-year-old Qali Ibrahim frantically dialed her husband’s mobile phone. Minutes earlier he had left home, hammer and saw in hand, headed out for a day of construction work.

“The number you are dialing is not reachable”, his mobile responded.

Hours of anguish would pass before she could confirm her worst nightmare, Ibrahim later recounted. From hospital to hospital, there was no word of Muktar Abukar, a 35-year-old homebuilder whom she married four months earlier.

At Mogadishu’s biggest hospital, Medina, she and her sister-in-law were told to look among a row of dead bodies that had not yet been identified after a huge truck bomb blast. Ibrahim said she pulled back the sheet on the first corpse she came to, finding a badly burned body she recognized as her husband’s from a deep scar on one of his fingers.

“We were together last night,” the new widow, three months pregnant, wept as she rocked back and forth, her head veiled by a red scarf and buried between her knees as her sister-in-law squeezed her shoulders. “The world is so painful.”

At least 90 people died in the blast that killed Ibrahim’s husband on Saturday morning, an international organization said. A bomb-laden truck exploded at a busy checkpoint in the deadliest attack in Somalia in more than two years.

No-one immediately claimed responsibility but the city’s mayor blamed al Qaeda-linked Islamist group al Shabaab.

Saturday’s attack was the 20th vehicle-borne explosives attack of 2019 in Somalia and the year is ending with more deaths from such attacks than 2018, according to the Hiraal Institute, a Mogadishu-based security think-tank.

Reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Additional reporting by Feisal Omar; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Frances Kerry

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