Thursday, December 3rd, 2009: 52 students were set to graduate in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, an unprecedented number for this country which has been ravaged by conflict for decades. But the graduation ceremony was interrupted by a suicide bomber.
The death toll? 23 people. Dozens more were injured. Three members of the Transitional Federal Government were also killed, including the Ministers of Higher Education, Education and Health, indicating that the attack was most likely politically motivated.
One of the students who was graduating that day, a 23 year old future doctor, tells IRIN what happened:
I was extremely happy that after six years I was finally getting my degree; it was the happiest day of my life. I was one of the first graduates to get to the venue for the ceremony. I was there at 8am. You have no idea how hard we worked to get our degrees. There were days we could not go class because of the security situation. I had to cross roadblocks to get to the university and brave gunfire many times; therefore graduation day was an emotional day for all of us. But then, just as we were about to receive our diplomas, a huge explosion ripped through the place. For a minute I was so dazed I could not understand what was happening. Then I realized my leg was bleeding and when I looked at where my colleagues had been sitting, there was nothing but death and destruction. – Sakhaudin Ahmed
Al-Shabaab, Somalia’s most active militant group, has denied responsibility for the attack. But Somalis disagree. In the past few days, hundreds of Somalis have marched down the streets of Mogadishu to rally against al-Shabaab, in what the BBC says is an “unprecedented show of anger at the militants.” And today, residents of a town close to Mogadishu fired back at Hizbul Islam rebels, one of Somalia’s other main rebel groups, to protest the arrest of a school headmaster who had a raised a Somali flag over the school.
Regardless of who is responsible for the attack, deliberately targeting civilians constitutes a war crime and is always prohibited under international law.
The TFG has now set up an inquiry into the attack. The rest of us have to wait and see if anyone is ever brought to justice for this heinous crime.