Africa

Somali al-Shabab attack: Wounded airlifted to Turkey

Patients at Mogadishu airport - 6 October 2011
Image caption Hospitals have been struggling to cope with the wounded from Tuesday's blast

Thirty six of the most severely wounded people in Tuesday's suicide attack in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, are being flown to Turkey for treatment.

Among those on board are teenagers who at the time of the blast were at the education ministry to see if they had won study scholarships to Turkey.

The Islamist al-Shabab group said it carried out the bombing.

About 150 people were wounded and 77 have died after a lorry detonated outside several government ministries.

It is the largest attack since al-Shabab withdrew its forces from Mogadishu in August.

Burns victims

The Turkish prime minister recently visited Somalia to pledge aid and support to the war-torn country.

The BBC's Mohamed Moalimu in Mogadishu says 37 patients were taken to Mogadishu airport on Thursday morning, but one person died before the flight took off.

Somalia's Justice Minister Ahmed Bile, who is head of a special committee set up to deal with the aftermath of the attack, said the most of the patients being airlifted to Turkey were suffering from bad burns.

"The Somali government thanks the government and people of Turkey for rushing to the aid of the victims of the deadly attack," the cabinet said in a statement.

Our reporter says Mogadishu's main hospital has been struggling to cope with the wounded. Some people were lying outside for treatment when President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed visited on Wednesday, the day after the blast.

He announced that a $100,000 (£65,000) fund had been set up to treat the victims and help relatives of those who died.

The president - a former Islamist fighter - heads the weak UN-backed transitional government which relies on the 9,000-strong African Union force for its security.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991 - the transitional government and Islamist militias are competing for control of the country.

Al-Shabab, which has links to al-Qaeda, controls large swathes of south and central Somalia.

Somalia's political instability has been compounded in the past year by the worst drought in 60 years, which has forced tens of thousands of people to flee to Mogadishu in search of food.

The UN has declared a famine in six regions of Somalia.

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