Monday, December 17, 2018
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Mogadishu massacre: A gravedigger's worst nightmare

Mohamed Hassan describes the painful process of burying missing limbs blown off by Saturday's truck explosion.

Mohamed Hassan is a gravedigger at Barakat cemetery on the outskirts of the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Hassan, 50, describes the difficulty of burying missing limbs blown off by the Saturday truck explosion in Mogadishu that left at least 300 dead, more than 300 others injured and 100 more still missing. The blast at a busy junction in downtown Mogadishu was the deadliest in the East African country's history.

"At around 1pm we left the cemetery because there was no work. Burials usually happen during the morning. Then I heard a very loud explosion.

"That morning, we had no work to do because there was no death. Normally we bury one person a day. On a very busy day, we bury two people. It is not a lot of work for the seven of us that work in this cemetery.

"But from the sound of the explosion, we knew we will be busy. It was like an earthquake but very loud. We all came back to work and started preparing fresh graves. Usually when something happens, we don't wait for the relatives to ask us to dig the grave. When people come, we already have one or two graves ready.

"We thought maybe the most we will receive will be five people to bury. Our cemetery is not the biggest and it is a bit of a distance from the city, so most people go to other cemeteries.

"Then the bodies started arriving. The explosion happened Saturday afternoon, and we received the first body at around 6am Sunday morning.

"I remember very clearly. The corpse had no head and was missing a hand. It looked like an old man. But I could be wrong. The head was blown off. It came to us from the hospital. We were asked to bury it. No one knows who it was.

"How do you identify a corpse with no head?

"Myself I buried 17 people. Some were just body parts wrapped in a cloth. I have been working as a gravedigger for eight years and never seen anything like it. I have lived in Mogadishu my whole life and even during the civil war it was not that bad. I'm 50 years old and this is the worst I have come across.

"My colleagues have also said the same thing. I don't know how many they managed to bury, but we have been working non-stop since Saturday afternoon.

"When you are a gravedigger, you think you have seen everything and nothing will upset you. But talking about what I saw brings tears to my eyes, makes me very emotional. I hope I never have to see anything like it again."

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