Mogadishu Blast Kills Sports Chiefs, Al-Shabab Claims Responsibility

Posted April 4th, 2012 at 11:45 pm (UTC-5)
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Militant group al-Shabab has taken responsibility for a suicide bombing in Somalia's capital that killed at least 10, including the country's football and Olympic chiefs.

Wednesday's attack occurred at the newly-reopened national theater in Mogadishu, which has symbolized Somalia's push to restore security and stability after more than two decades of chaos.

Authorities say a female blew herself up as Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali addressed a crowd gathered to celebrate the first anniversary of Somali National Television.

The prime minister was unharmed, but the National Union of Somali Journalists says at least seven journalists were wounded in the attack. NUSOJ Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman condemned the attack, saying it was directed at the media and journalists because the gathering was essentially a media event.

A VOA reporter captured audio of the powerful blast.

The prime minister later confirmed to VOA that a woman carried out the attack and described the bombing as “al-Shabab's act of terror.”

“After they have been defeated in face-to-face fighting, they have started killing innocent people,” he said.

The blast killed the head of the Somali Olympic committee, Adan Haji Yabarow Wiish, and football federation chief Said Mohamed Nur.

The United States condemned the attack Wednesday. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Washington is appalled by the loss of life and supports international efforts to return peace and stability to Somalia.

“And we stand with the people of Somalia as they are trying to build a normal and functioning society. And I think some of you probably have looked at some of the press stories about – that civil society returning to Somalia, and Somalis everywhere had taken pride in the recent reopening of the National Theater as a sign that this normal life was returning to Mogadishu. It was a sign – the theater's reopening is a result of progress made by the TFG and sacrifices made by AMISOM to bring peace and stability back to Mogadishu since al-Shabab retreated there – from there in August 2011. So the fact that al-Shabab chose this shows their true – chose this site for their attack shows their true stripes. They also used young women as suicide bombers. In other places, they impress children to fight their battles. And the four people killed today include a Somali Olympic official, many more injured, including a deputy prime minister and minister of planning as well as a former deputy speaker of parliament. So this is a terrible tragedy for the people of Somalia.”

The Somali National Theater re-opened after more than 20 years last month, less than a year after pro-government forces regained control of the capital from al-Shabab.

The al-Qaida-allied group has continued to carry out strikes inside Mogadishu and vowed to keep up its fight to overthrow the transitional government, which is backed by the United Nations.

Al-Shabab continues to control significant parts of southern and central Somalia.

East African nations consider the group a regional threat and within the last year, both Kenya and Ethiopia have sent troops into Somalia to fight the insurgency.