WASHINGTON - Ten years ago on December 3, a suicide bomber attacked a graduation ceremony at Shamo Hotel, one of Mogadishu’s main hotels.
Fourteen medical students, lecturers, and doctors from Banadir University were among 30 people who were killed, more than 50 others injured.
Dr. Osman Mohamud Dufle was on the podium when the suicide bomber detonated the bomb.
“The explosion occurred right in front of me,” says Dr. Dufle, a physician and a member of the parliament.
Before going to the podium, his friend, Higher Education Minister Dr. Ibrahim Hassan Addow, asked if he could speak before him as he was rushing to another event. But the event organizer, Dr. Mohamed Mohamud Biday, intervened and convinced Dr. Addow he will speak next. The bomber detonated the explosion in the space between them. Dufle survived, Addow died.
Also killed were Health Minister Qamar Aden Ali, Education Minister Ahmed Aden Wayel, and Youth & Sports Minister Suleiman Olad Roble, who succumbed to his injuries few days later. Two journalists and one of the country's leading embryologists, Dr. Mohamed Adam Shahid, were among the dead.
“That has particular memory for me,” says Dufle. “To see the colleagues I was sitting alongside two minutes ago, lifeless in front of me, it’s a shocking memory.”
Dr. Biday, a cardiologist who was among the seriously injured, thought it was a mortar attack. He tried to get up and run, fearing that a second mortar round may be on the way, but he could not move.
“I was seriously injured, I could not stand,” he said. “I suffered multiple fractures; I was carried in a sheet.” He was among 20 badly wounded evacuated abroad for medical emergency.
Dr. Biday only learned the extent of the tragedy after 24 hours.
“It was a very painful day. A dark day.”
University bounces back
On the day of the attack, Banadir University, which started admitting its first students in 2002, was graduating its second class, 60 students, 30 of whom were doctors.
It was a big blow not only to Banadir University but to the education sector in Somalia, which was reviving despite the absence of a strong, functioning government.
“It was a sad day but today we recovered,” says Dr. Biday, who is now the rector of Banadir University.
“The intention was to shut down our eyes, the university, and to stop the effort and the work. But the leadership stood up. Today we are stronger.”
Biday says it would have been like a “second death” had the university collapsed after the attack.
To date, Banadir University has 11 different colleges. Last week, it graduated its 13th class, with 633 students achieving their dreams. Nearly 270 of the students graduated from the medical college, including 138 female doctors. Overall, 3210 students, including 938 females, have graduated since the University was opened.
The attack on the Shamo hotel graduation was one of the most gruesome suicide bombings in Somalia history. Ten years after the tragic event, and after multiple reviews of CCTVs and other recordings made of the event, it was concluded that the bomber was impersonating a journalist as he was holding a camera wandering around the ballroom of the graduation ceremony. At 11:15am, he detonated a laptop bomb that he was carrying.
At that time, even the participants did not expect that anyone would target such an event where students and parents attended to express delight and celebrate achievement in a country where such happy gatherings, at the time, were rare.
Government security agencies blamed the attack on the al-Shabab militant group. The bomber was identified as an Al-Shabab member who travelled from Denmark to join the militant group.
Al-Shabab denied responsibility for the attack.