According to a newly published Voice of America report, a senior Somali official indicated that the newly established Turkish military base in Mogadishu was the original target of the deadly truck bombing.
“There is doubt [about the target] because the area struck by the blast if too far away from the new Turkish base but this attack was most likely meant to hit a major target. The exact target remains unclear,” said Abdi Guled, an AP reporter based in Mogadishu, in a correspondence with teleSUR.
Officials believe that the bomb was at least 500 kilograms, suggesting that the attack was meant to attack a high value target.
While the Somali government has not taken a formal position on the target of the attack and its perpetrators, the official said that information prior to and after the deadly attack suggested that the Turkish base, Turkey's largest overseas military base, was the intended target.
The Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency had allegedly possessed information that indicated that al-Shabab was planning to attack the base.
While al-Shabab did not officially claim ownership of the attack, the deadliest in Somalia’s history, officials and experts strongly believe that the terrorist group did conduct it.
"Whether they claim or not claim makes no difference. We know the act that has happened, it’s al-Shabab," former intelligence officer Abdi Hassan Hussein told VOA Somali. "The information we are getting so far shows this is the work of al-Shabab. It has their hallmarks."
Experts have said that al-Shabab is avoiding taking credit for the attack because of the massive civilian casualties that the attack caused which has the potential to create public sentiments against the organization.
Intelligence officials cited in VOA’s report indicated that several arrests were made in relation to the attack that were members of al-Shebab. The driver of the truck, whose name has not been released, is allegedly a known al-Shebab member.
The truck had made it through one government checkpoint on its way to Mogadishu but was stepped at a second where the bomb inside the truck detonated.
“One of the soldiers made a radio call listened (to) by multiple officers and reported that they have a truck and they suspect it could be al-Shabab. He asked for bomb experts to inspect the truck,” said a security official at Mogadishu’s Joint Special Operations Command to VOA.
“The driver was ordered to park the truck on the side of the road but the driver panicked, maneuvered and sped past the checkpoint,” he said. "A soldier chased the truck as it collided with a three-wheeled motorcycle and a minibus before detonating in the midst of the busy junction."
The Turkish military base is being considered as the main target because of the strategic value that it has to al-Shabab.
The Somali government has recently announced a plan to raise an army of 22,000 soldiers to supplement African Union forces which are set to initiate an incremented withdrawal by next year.
On Sep. 30, Turkish and Somali officials announced the establishment of the new Turkish military base in Mogadishu. 200 Turkish troops are set to train, according to projections, nearly half of Somalia’s anticipated soldiers.
“This base is the most strategic target for them, it’s going to produce an organized army and they have to preemptively destroy that,” the Somali official said.
The Somali government is expected to make an official announcement on intelligence findings regarding the deadly attack.