MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — The Somali suicide bomber who killed more than 100 people, including students seeking scholarships, in an attack near the education ministry was a school dropout who had declared that young people should forget about secular education and instead wage jihad.
Bashar Abdullahi Nur, who detonated a massive blast Tuesday that covered the capital in dust more than a half-mile (800 meters) away and left blackened corpses sprawled amid burning vehicles, gave an interview before the attack.
"Now those who live abroad are taken to a college and never think about the hereafter. They never think about the harassed Muslims," he said in the interview later aired Wednesday on a militant-run radio station. "He wakes up in the morning, goes to college and studies and accepts what the infidels tell him, while infidels are massacring Muslims."
The U.N. said Thursday that more than 100 people had died in the explosion in Mogadishu. Tuesday's attack killed some of Somalia's brightest young minds, including students gathered around a notice board to learn about the results of scholarships from the Turkish government.
The attack took place near a building housing several government ministries, and it was not immediately clear what was the precise target. However, it is not the first time the al-Qaida-linked militants have targeted students. In 2009, the al-Shabab group attacked a graduation ceremony, killing medical students and doctors.
"These attacks, which targeted some of the country's very few university-level students, as well as the dedicated civil servants working to enhance Somali public institutions and social services under extremely difficult circumstances, are a direct blow to the fabric — and future — of the nation," said Shamsul Bari, the U.N.'s independent human rights expert in Somalia.
Al-Shabab's spokesman has vowed to increase attacks "day by day" as part of an effort to defeat the weak U.N.-backed Somali government and the 9,000 African Union peacekeepers stationed in the country.
Al-Shabab, an ultraconservative Islamist group, is known for the hard punishments it metes out against people, such as chopping off the hands of thieves and stoning adulterers to death. The group considers the secular education as a form of Western invasion into the minds of the Muslims.
Suicide bombings, unheard of in Somalia before 2007, have become increasingly frequent. Islamic militants in Somalia have shown a rising ability to carry out sophisticated large-scale bombings against high-profile targets, such as Tuesday's attack that occurred in a government-controlled area of the city.
Somalia has been mired in violence since 1991, plunging the country into a chaos that sprouted militants and piracy off the coast of Horn of Africa nation. Somalia also has been suffering from its worst famine in 60 years: The U.S. says 29,000 children have died since the famine began, and the U.N. says 750,000 more are at risk of starving to death in the next few months.
Al-Shabab fighters have compounded the suffering by preventing aid agencies from helping famine victims in areas under militant control in southern Somalia.
Associated Press writer Malkhadir M. Muhumed contributed to this report from Nairobi, Kenya.