MOGADISHU (Reuters) – As wounded men screaming for their mothers were brought into a Mogadishu hospital after a huge truck bomb on Saturday, doctors fought to save eight month-old Mohammed Hassan, whose mother was already dead.
The baby had lost too much blood to cry, but on Tuesday, hooked up to oxygen tubes and IV and swathed in bandages – he flexed his uninjured hand, sending a waterfall of tears coursing down the cheeks of his father, Somali farmer Abdi Abukar Hassan.
“Oh thank God,” Hassan exclaimed as his son moved for the first time after his right arm was shredded and his back torn by shrapnel in the bombing, which killed at least 90 people and wounded dozens at a bustling checkpoint. “Look, he is alive now, please let’s recite the Koran over him!”
Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked Islamist al Shabaab insurgency claimed the bombing, saying it was directed at Turkish engineers and their government-provided security detail. In a rare admission, the group acknowledged civilian casualties but said they had been “unintentional”.
Al Shabaab wants to overthrow the weak, U.N.-backed government and impose a strict version of Islamic law. The conflict is complicated by layers of clan loyalties and rivalries between regional powers like Qatar and Turkey, which are jostling for power in the Horn of Africa nation.
On Wednesday, Hassan thanked the Turkish-run Erdogan Hospital for its free treatment, saying nurses had told him the oxygen and intravenous tubes would be removed from his baby and he may open his eyes later in the day.
Two Turkish nationals were killed in the explosion, which took place as Turkish engineers visited a construction site near the checkpoint.
Mohamed’s grandmother had left her tin shack to help the baby and his mother onto a minibus when the bomb went off. Mohamed’s mother was killed instantly.
His grandmother, wounded in the legs, staggered toward the family’s home, clutching him and screaming for help before she collapsed.
A neighbor ran out, shoeless, and tried, unsuccessfully, to flag down motorbike taxis fleeing the scene before catching a minibus to the hospital, cradling the baby’s bleeding arm attached by only a thin piece of skin. Hassan’s aunt called him to break the news.
“My wife, Naimo Mohamud Jeylani, she was very kind. May God rest her soul and take her to paradise,” said Hassan, as his six-year-old daughter Khadija and four-year-old Sadaq leaned silently against their father. “Thank God, my son is now moving. I am happy he is alive. Yesterday, I thought he was dead.’”
writing by Katharine Houreld; editing by Philippa Fletcher