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Mogadishu Truck Bomb's Death Toll Now Tops 500, Probe Committee Says

A picture taken on Oct. 15 at the scene of the first explosion in the Oct. 14 Mogadishu terrorist attacks.

The death toll in what Somalis have described as their 9/11 has risen even higher.

On Oct. 20, the government said the toll had reached 358, making it Somalia's deadliest terrorist attack ever. The Zobe Rescue Committee, created by the Somali government in the wake of the attack, spoke with relatives of those at the denotation sites in efforts to establish a more accurate death toll.

Now, the committee reports that 512 people were killed, 312 were wounded, and that 62 remain missing, according to the Associated Press.

Two truck bombs blasted the capital city of Mogadishu on Oct. 14. The first detonated outside a hotel at a busy junction lined with restaurants and government offices. A fuel tanker next to the bomb greatly increased the denotation's intensity, burning many bodies beyond recognition and destroying entire buildings. The second blast struck the district of Medina just two hours later.

The AP reported that the initial bomb—which weighed between 1,300 and 1,700 pounds—was meant to target a highly-traveled airport, but instead detonated in one of the Somali capital's busiest intersections after soldiers opened fire on the truck.

Islamist militant group al Shabaab began an insurgency in Somalia a decade ago. The group, which regularly orchestrates acts of terrorism throughout the country and particularly in the city of Mogadishu, has not claimed responsibility for the attacks.

But Abdirahman Omar Osman, Somalia's minister of information for the federal, told NPR in October that he blames al Shabaab.

"Since we have put more pressure on them, since we are winning the war, they are trying to cause as many civilian casualties as possible," the minister said.

"Today's horrific attack proves our enemy will stop at nothing," President Mohamed Farmaajo said hours after the blasts. "Let's unite against terror."

United States officials condemned "in the strongest terms the October 14 terrorist attacks that killed and injured scores of innocent Somalis in Mogadishu" in a statement. "Such cowardly attacks reinvigorate the commitment of the United States to assist our Somali and African Union partners to combat the scourge of terrorism," the United States Mission to Somalia statement read.

NPR's East Africa correspondent Eyder Peralta reported that Somalia will likely seek deeper involvement from the U.S. as it works to flush out the terrorist group from its strongholds.

The AP reported a U.S. drone strike against al Shabaab two days after the attack about 35 miles outside Mogadishu. The U.S. has carried out at least 30 drone strikes in Somalia this year, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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