October 14, 2019 (AO) – Two years ago, this day, a truck loaded with explosives drove into Mogadishu supposedly on its way to the UN compound but went burst in Zoobe Junction leaving in its wake over 500 people dead and over 300 others injured.
The truck which staggered through the 3pm traffic blew up sending the whole area into flames as hundred were burnt alive trapped in vehicles while several others perished inside shops and roadside kiosks as Zoobe Junction turned into an apocalyptic scene.
Balls of fire filled the air as emergency rescue teams struggled to make way into the area amid thick chocking smoke and body parts strewn across the whole Zoobe area.
Safari Restaurant which was a favoruite for many on that fateful afternoon was razed to the ground as those who could manage to run for their lives did but others, including those in hotel rooms perished.
International and local response was quick. Countries such as Turkey, Qatar, Kenya and Djibouti flew in air ambulances to transport the injured to their respective countries as local hospitals were overwhelmed treating hundreds of injured.
Families too were in agony as relatives walked from hospital to hospital looking for their loved ones as others picked bodies of their kin for burial.
Grave diggers in the outskirts of Mogadishu were overwhelmed as families cued whole day to secure a place to inter their loved ones.
As the country was griped in fear and pain, local and international security agencies were also working round the clock piecing together evidence of what became the deadliest terrorist attack in Africa.
Police said one minivan which was to lead the way as the attackers made way to the UN compound went burst before entering the city as occupants of a third vehicle were arrested. The security forces managed to detonate the bomb successfully.
PAIN AND DEFIANCE
Days following the attack were difficult and painful. Virtually everybody in Mogadishu knew someone or was relative to someone who was affected.
The sense of despair was real as families narrated to journalists the pain and agony. A student who was going to get her gown for graduation after six years in medical school perished, a disabled man who used to hawk on the roadside lost two of his children who had just come to relieve for the afternoon.
A man who had come back to Mogadishu after 25 years the day before was trapped in hotel room at Safari hotel. Women, men, sons and daughters painfully spoke of how they lost their loved ones. There was despair, anger and pain.
That pain was suddenly turned into defiance and bravery. Youth in red bands on their heads took to the streets in Mogadishu to publicly condemn Al-Shabaab- the first such public disapproval. Young men and women volunteered to sign up for the 14 October Brigade of the Somali National Army.
Women spoke out and besieged their sons against Al-Shabaab. It was a point of no return.
Video footage from the scene showed the ill-fated truck staggering on the road divider at Zoobe Junction before bursting into flames.
Buildings as far as five kilometres had windows shattered and walls cracked.
The final report by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs put the death toll at 687 dead, 300 injured and 2,000 children orphaned. Property running into thousands of dollars was destroyed.
The government put responsibility of the attack on the doorstep of the al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab but the group went mute contrary to quick claims of responsibility in previous attacks. Analysts said the group failed to admit responsibility because of the scale of civilian deaths.
Two weeks after the October 14 attack, Al-Shabaab struck again downtown Mogadishu killing 28 people in a hotel.
Two years down the line, Zoobe Junction is back and business is going on as usual. Most of the buildings have been rebuilt with Safari Hotel coming back, big and better.
But some buildings remain untouched and are still in ruins. Out of all the pain and suffering occasioned by the terrorist attack, the resilience of Somali people is unwavering.