Thousands of Somalis have demonstrated against those behind the bombing that killed more than 300 people at the weekend, defying police who opened fire to keep them away from the site of the attack.
Wearing red headbands, the crowd of mostly young men and women marched through Mogadishu amid tight security. They answered a call to unity by the mayor, Thabit Abdi, who said: “We must liberate this city, which is awash with graves.”
The attack in the heart of Mogadishu on Saturday has been blamed on al-Shabaab, the local violent Islamist group, and was one of the most lethal terrorist operations anywhere in the world in recent years.
The Somali capital has suffered scores of bombings over recent years but not on this scale.
“We are demonstrating against the terrorists that massacred our people. We entered the road by force,” said Halima Abdullahi, who lost six of her relatives in the attacks.
Mohamed Salad, a university student, called on God to punish those responsible for the bombing.
The true death toll in the attack will probably never be known. The government buried at least 160 of those killed because they could not be identified after the blast.
In the town of Dusamareb in central Somalia, residents also marched for several hours and clerics called for the war against the militants to be stepped up.
The president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, pledged to rid Somalia of al-Shabaab, an affiliate of al-Qaida, after taking power in February in an election seen as a key milestone on the battered east African country’s gradual return to stability and prosperity.
The bombing, which involved two vehicles, is a major setback to the government, underlining its inability to guarantee security even in the capital.
Both vehicles detonated before reaching their intended target, which investigators believe was the heavily defended compound where the United Nations, embassies and forces from the African Union are based.