Al-Shabaab strikes again! Two Somali Olympic chiefs slain

The scene of today's (Wednesday) Al-Shabaab bomb blast at the Somali National Theatre that claimed the lives of two Somali Olympic chiefs.

The head of Somalia’s Olympic Committee Aden Yabarow Wish and the country’s football chief are among eight people killed in a bomb attack in Mogadishu. Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali narrowly survived the blast unhurt after it struck the newly re-opened national theatre in the capital, Mogadishu.  

Mr Wish and his colleague Nur were among a group of dignitaries who had gathered to mark the first anniversary of the launch of Somalia’s national television station at the National Theatre. At least eight people are feared to have lost their lives in the blast but the death toll may rise as those seriously wounded succumb to the injuries suffered. There was chaos as the blast ripped through seats that had only a few moments earlier been occupied by Somalia’s dignitaries. Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Ali was in the process of addressing an estimated 300 high profile dignitaries that had gathered to celebrate one year since the country’s only TV station took to the air.

A BBC reporter in Mogadishu says initial Somali police investigations point to a female suicide bomber as being behind the explosion, but the Islamist group Al-Shabaab has since claimed responsibility for the explosion saying they had planted a device at the theatre ahead of the event, which was announced on television on Tuesday night.

The ease at which Al-Shabaab managed to plant a suicide bomber during an event that demanded high security calls into question recent claims by AMISOM (THE African Union Mission in Somalia) that AU troops had weathered the storm and forced Al-Shabaab on a retreat. “All guests at the ceremony had been thoroughly frisked as they entered the theatre, so suspicions are growing that it may have been an inside job. It has also prompted people to question why officials would publicise the event when the government is unable to guarantee security – even for its own prime minister,” BBC’s Mohamed Dhore writes.

FIFA boss Sepp Blatter, said he was shocked at the deaths of the sport officials. “I knew both men personally and can only say good things about their endless efforts to promote sport and football in their country,” he said in a statement. “They will be sorely missed.” Among scores injured in the blast were three Somali television journalists. The theatre had closed in the early 1990s as Somalia descended into civil war and was only reopened last month, amid a new period of relative optimism.

BBC’s Somali Service correspondent writes: “Police and hospital sources told BBC News in Mogadishu that eight people had been killed. The prime minister said a woman suicide attacker had carried out the attack. Condemning al-Shabab, he (the Somali Prime Minister) said it was in the group’s nature to “kill innocent people” and described the attacks as “the last breaths of a dying horse”.

Abdullahi Yussuf Abdurahiman, 22, survived the explosion. He told BBC News: “I saw mutilated bodies, shoes on the ground, bloody mobile phones and chairs cut in half by the force of the blast. “A lot of people were being carried out and there were dead people on the floor. It was unimaginable. Then everyone was running away.”  Soldiers started shooting after the blast, witnesses said.

In a statement, Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the bombing but referred to a planted device rather than a suicide bomber. “The Mujahideen successfully planted the explosives before the gathering,” it said on Twitter. Al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab told Reuters news agency: “We were behind the theatre blast. We targeted the infidel ministers and legislators, and they were the casualties of today.” The explosion comes as the UN-backed government seeks to show it has re-established control of the city since al-Shabab was forced out in August. However, Al-Shabaab has continued to attack the capital with bombs and mortars.

Last week, AMISOM said they had seized control of territory on the outskirts of Mogadishu which, they said, had allowed the Islamist fighters to launch their frequent attacks on the city. Brigadier General Audace Nduwumunsi, deputy commander of the AU mission 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.

Story source: Further editing by The LEP editorial team. Share your views on this article with us on Twitter @editorTLEP

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