More than 300 dead after weekend truck bomb attack in Somalia

The death toll from a truck bomb blast on Saturday in Somalia's capital Mogadishu has risen to more than 300, according to an ambulance service chief.

The government has blamed al-Shabab for the attack, but the extremist Islamist group has not yet commented.

Fifteen primary school children are among the dead, said Dr. Abdulkadir Adam of the Aamin Ambulance service. He added that more people have died of their wounds in the past few hours.

The information minister had said around 300 people were also injured in the blast, which was the deadliest single attack in the nation's history.

A senator said many of the bodies in mortuaries had not yet been identified, with officials fearing the death toll would continues to climb.

Somalia has blamed al-Shabab militants for the blast. Credit: APTN

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declared three days of mourning and joined thousands of people who responded to a desperate plea by hospitals to donate blood for the wounded victims.

"I am appealing all Somali people to come forward and donate," he said.

Many victims died at hospitals from their wounds, said Police Captain Mohamed Hussein.

Dr. Mohamed Yusuf, the director of Medina hospital, said: "The hospital is overwhelmed by both dead and wounded. We also received people whose limbs were cut away by the bomb.

"This is really horrendous, unlike any other time in the past."

Officials fear the death toll may rise further. Credit: APTN

Rescue workers searched for survivors trapped under the rubble of the largely destroyed Safari Hotel, which is close to Somalia's foreign ministry.

The explosion blew off metal gates and blast walls erected outside the hotel.

The blast occurred two days after the head of the US Africa Command was in Mogadishu to meet Somalia's president and two days after the country's defence minister and army chief resigned for undisclosed reasons.

The wreckage of vehicles at the scene of a blast. Credit: AP

Somali-based extremist group al-Shabab recently stepped up attacks on army bases across south and central Somalia.

The US military has stepped up drone strikes against the al Qaida-linked group, which is also fighting the Somali military and more than 20,000 African Union forces in the country.