After Somalia suffered its deadliest terrorist attack on Saturday, the Bishop of Djibouti reflected on the need for hope and unity among Somalis lest it become “a double attack.”
A truck packed with explosives exploded in front of a hotel in the Somali capital Mogadishu Oct. 14, killing at least 276 people. Many more were wounded.
“I would say that even though what has happened its a catastrophe, we mustn't despair. It would be a double attack if we despaired,” Bishop Giorgio Bertin of Djibouti told Vatican Radio. Bishop Bertin also serves as apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Mogadishu, which has been vacant since the assassination of its last bishop in 1989.
The bombing has yet to have been claimed by any group. Some Somalis have reacted to the attack by condemning al-Shabaab, an Islamist militant group associated with al-Qaeda. Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed called it a “heinous act” targeting “civilians who were going about their business.”
Bishop Bertin commented that “when one goes [to Somalia] the situation seems normal; I could spend five days in Baidoa, two days in Mogadishu. Obviously I was accompanied by an armed escort, but the Somalis seemed to be living normally. It seems like normal life.” “You might have the impression that they are rather habituated to seeing, undergoing these momentary attacks, but they never seem to change life there.” The bishop added that he thinks “we should continue to seek greater unity within Somalia and the international community to face this problem.”
Turkey is taking 40 of those injured in the attack for medical treatment, and the African Union has said it will continue its support of Somalia as it works “to achieve sustainable peace and security.”
The US Mission to Somalia stated that it “lauds the heroic response of the Somali security forces and first responders and Somali citizens who rushed to the aid of their brothers and sisters. Such cowardly attacks reinvigorate the commitment of the United States to assist our Somali and African Union partners to combat the scourge of terrorism to promote stability and prosperity for the Somali people and their regional neighbors.”
Somalia has been in a state of turmoil since the early 1990s, and was long regarded as a failed state. It has relatively stabilized in recent years, and has been called a fragile state. The federal government has consolidated control over much of the southern part of the country, though Islamists still control several swathes of territory. Somalia's northern areas are effectively governed as the autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland.