Friday, October 24, 2014
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Somalia sports officials killed in theatre bombing

Somalia's Olympic committee and football heads are among seven people killed by a bomb in Mogadishu.

Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali was also present when the blast struck the newly re-opened national theatre but he told the BBC he was unhurt.

Militants from the al-Shabab group say they had carried out the bombing.

The African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in Somalia condemned the attack as "despicable" and said it would not deter peace efforts.

The theatre closed in the early 1990s as Somalia descended into civil war and was only reopened last month, amid a new period of relative optimism.

The President of the Somali Olympic Committee, Aden Yabarow Wiish, and the Somali Football Federation chief, Said Mohamed Nur, were among a group of dignitaries who had gathered to mark the first anniversary of the launch of Somalia's national television station.

Three Somali television journalists were also wounded in the blast, sources have told the BBC Somali Service.

Earlier reports put the number of dead at 10.

Musical event

The prime minister told the BBC a woman suicide attackers had struck.

"In the middle of my speech... a suicide bomber exploded herself," he told BBC News.

Condemning al-Shabab, he said it was in the group's nature to "kill innocent people".

"This is the last breaths of a dying horse, so now hopefully they will be eliminated from the face of the earth," he added.

An eyewitness, Salah Jimale, told the Associated Press news agency: "The blast happened as musicians were singing and spectators were clapping for them.

"Smoke made everything go dark. People screamed and soldiers suddenly started opening fire at the gate."

Reporters at the scene say dozens of people were hurt, and have described seeing shoes and bloody mobile phones lying on the floor, and chairs cut in half by the force of the blast.

In a statement al-Shabab said it was behind the bombing but referred to a planted device rather than a suicide bomber.

Al-Shabab militants who had controlled large parts of the country, including Mogadishu, were pushed out of the city by AU troops last year.

Appeal for information

Since then, there has been a period of relative quiet, with sporting activity resuming, restaurants opening, and the re-opening of the National Theatre.

But al-Shabab has continued to attack the capital with bombs and mortars.

Brigadier General Audace Nduwumunsi, deputy commander of the AU mission (Amisom), said the peacekeepers stood firmly with the Somali government.

"Yet again the terrorists' methods show that they are enemies of peace and are foreign to Somali culture," he said.

"By their attack they are trying to derail the hopes and dreams of the Somali people but they will fail."

He encouraged people in Mogadishu to come forward with any information about possible further attacks. - BBC

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