Muslim leaders in the Washington area have condemned the recent terrorist attack in Mogadishu that killed nearly 400 people and injured 228. Imams and diplomats expressed shock and horror at Friday prayers.
Imams, Somali community leaders, the ambassadors of two African nations, a representative from Turkey and officials from the U.S. Department of State gathered at Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia, one of the nation’s largest, on Friday to condemn terror, especially the recent attack in Mogadishu and offer condolences to the families of those killed or injured.
Among U.S officials at the event were, Eric Stromayer, acting deputy assistant secretary for African Affairs, and Vincent Spero, acting director for East Africa office.
'Act of evil'
Imam Shaker Elsayed, an imam at Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center, preached in his Friday sermon that terrorism has no place in Islam and condemned the Mogadishu attack.
“As our Somali brothers and sisters are mourning, let me emphasize that terrorism has nothing to do with Islam and Islam is a peaceful religion,” Imam Elsayed said.
Ambassador Moawiya Osman Khalid of Sudan, has described the recent Mogadishu terror attack as an "act of evil."
“They are evil and cruel people who are trying to reshape the view of the Islamic people. We understand that Somali people are strong and they will stop, fight and push back against all those criminal activities,” Khalid said.
Republic of Chad Ambassador Mahamat Nasser, also spoke at the event, urging Muslims around the world to unite in the fight against terrorism that continues to spoil the peaceful image of Islam.
“We are Muslims we know that our religion is peaceful, not violent. That is why Muslims all over the world should unify our views against those spoiling the image of Islam,” Nasser said.
The event, attended by hundreds of Muslim mosque congregants, was organized by the Somali Embassy in Washington.
On the same day, similar prayer services for the victims of the Mogadishu bombing were held at more than 20 mosques across the U.S. and Canada, said Ahmed Isse Awad, Somalia's ambassador to the United States.
Jump in fatality toll
The prayers come as the Somali government officially declared a sharp increase in the death toll from the truck bomb, putting the final tally at 358 people killed, 228 injured and 56 missing.
The uncertainty about the death toll was evident in the fluctuating numbers being reported by the media, quoting health officials. Some insisted on the official number while others put the death to more than 350 and nearly 400 injured.
As the search-and-rescue operation concluded three days after the blast, the government said the recorded death toll was 281, with more than 300 injured, but at that point it still did not know the whereabouts of many missing Mogadishu residents.
The only thing all agreed on was that the death toll could increase.
Somali government officials have declared war against al-Shabab militants they accuse of being behind the blast, the deadliest terrorist attack in Somalia's history, a responsibility the militants have not claimed so far.
Over the past 10 years, the group has bombed dozens of hotels, restaurants and other targets in Mogadishu, as part of its campaign to topple the government and install a strict version of Islamic law in Somalia.