Twin explosions in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu that claimed at least 263 lives has been compared to terror attacks in the UK to highlight the “shameful” contrast in public interest in African tragedies.
In what is the deadliest attack since an Islamist insurgency began in 2007, a truck bomb was exploded outside a hotel in the K5 intersection that is lined with government offices, restaurants and kiosks on Saturday, flattening several buildings and setting dozens of vehicles on fire.
Two hours later, another blast struck the capital’s Medina district.
While the bombings made the front page of the Guardian on Monday commenters on Twitter lamented how little attention the bombings had garnered given the death toll.
The tragedy failed to gain any traction on social media, with stories seemingly not resonating enough to trend. The depth of media coverage was also criticised.
The Mogadishu death toll is more than 10 times that of the Manchester Arena bombing on 22 May that claimed 22 lives, Khaled Beydoun wrote in a social media post on Sunday that bemoaned the fact that geography seemingly trumps fatalities in determining media coverage and how much it resonates with the general public.
“I hate comparing human tragedies, but the mainstream media makes you do it,” the associate professor of law at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law wrote.
“Listen, the number of people killed in Somalia yesterday (Saturday) was more than 10x more (230+) than the number killed in the terror attack in Manchester in May (22). 230 to 22.
“Yet, there are no slogans claiming ‘We Are Mogadishu’ and no catchy images floating around social media demonstrating solidarity. Most shamefully, there is little mainstream media attention documenting the ungodly death and devastation in Somalia’s capital, and certainly no television specials or emergency fundraisers providing aid. None and none and none.”
Beydoun’s post, which he also tweeted, struck a cord on Twitter with many, while one commenter argued that proximity and personal connection to events dictates how widely events impact people and both media and social media coverage.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo has declared three days of national mourning and called for donations of blood and funds to victims of the bombings.
“Today’s horrific attack proves our enemy would stop nothing to cause our people pain and suffering. Let’s unite against terror,” he tweeted on Saturday.
A spokesman for Aamin Ambulance service earlier said it knew of more than 250 people wounded during the bombings.
“Some people who searched for their relatives just found unrecognizable body parts,” its director Abdikadir Abdirahman told Reuters.
“In our 10 year experience as the first responder in #Mogadishu, we haven’t seen anything like this,” tweeted the ambulance service, which is reliant on private donations and the only free ambulance service in the city.
“We’re mourning the loss of 5 Somali Red Crescent volunteers, also killed in this attack,” tweeted the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Police and emergency workers searched the rubble of destroyed buildings on Sunday. They had recovered dozens of corpses the night before, most of which were charred beyond recognition.
Hundreds of people came to the junction in search of missing family members and police cordoned off the area for security reasons.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although the Islamist militant group al Shabaab, which is allied to al Qaeda, stages regular attacks in the capital and other parts of the country.
The group is waging an insurgency against the UN-backed government and its African Union allies in a bid to topple the weak administration and impose its own strict interpretation of Islam.
The militants were driven out of Mogadishu in 2011 and have been steadily losing territory since then to the combined forces of African Union peacekeepers and Somali security forces.
But al Shabaab retains the ability to mount large, complex bomb attacks. Over the past three years, the number of civilians killed by insurgent bombings has steadily climbed as al Shabaab increases the size of its bombs.
Khaled Beydoun’s full post reads:
I hate comparing human tragedies, but the mainstream media makes you do it.
Listen, the number of people killed in Somalia yesterday was more than 10x more (230+) than the number killed in the terror attack in Manchester in May (22). 230 to 22.
Yet, there are no slogans claiming “We Are Mogadishu” and no catchy images floating around social media demonstrating solidarity. Most shamefully, there is little mainstream media attention documenting the ungodly death and devastation in Somalia’s capital, and certainly no television specials or emergency fundraisers providing aid. None and none and none.
We get it - white and Western, European and American victims ‘merit’ the media attention and the public alarm it spurs, and Black and foreign, African and Muslims do not. This is institutionalized within mainstream media, social media and elsewhere. And the implicit message rendered by this lack of coverage is that that this brand of terror is “indigenous and common” to places like Somalia, African and Muslim-majority countries at large.
This is an expected effect of structural Islamophobia and anti-Black racism that deserves critique, and both middle fingers. But so do our own who swiftly rush to express solidarity with European and American cities but stay silent when terror, of an even greater scale, strikes cities that are predominantly Muslim, Black, Brown and poor.
The same media channels that pressure you, me and us to claim “I Am Manchester” or “I Am Las Vegas” preempts the possibility of doing the same for places like Mogadishu. So F**t It, I Am Mogadishu.