Mogadishu suicide bomb claims lives of Somalia’s sport leaders
THE president of Somalia’s Olympic committee and the head of the national football federation were among ten people killed in a suicide bombing yesterday.
The attack came as the country’s prime minister joined the others at Somalia’s National Theatre – a site meant to symbolize Mogadishu’s attempts to move on after two decades of war.
The explosion at the newly reopened theatre came as prime minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali was standing at the podium to deliver a speech. He was unharmed.
The blast shattered a tentative peace that has dominated the capital after fighters belonging to the Islamist group al-Shabab were pushed out last August by government and African Union troops.
The government said a female suicide bomber carried out the attack, but al-Shabab, using its official Twitter feed to claim responsibility for the attack, said explosives had been planted in the theatre before the event.
“It was a cowardly act and that will not deter the government from performing its national duties,” Abdirahman Omar Osman, a government spokesman, said. “The prime minister will energize the government to eliminate the terrorists out of the country.”
Local ambulance workers said at least ten people were killed and dozens wounded, including the country’s national planning minister.
“The blast happened as musicians were singing and spectators were clapping for them,” said onlooker Salah Jimale. “Huge smoke made the whole scene go dark. People screamed and soldiers suddenly started opening fire at the gate. Some wounded people escaped and ran away.”
The International Olympic Committee issued a statement saying it was “shocked to hear of the terrorist attack that took the lives of the president of the Somali Olympic Committee, Aden Yabarow Wiish, and Somali Football Federation chief Said Mohamed Nur in Mogadishu.”
“Both men were engaged in improving the lives of Somalian people through sport and we strongly condemn such an act of barbarism.”
The months of relative peace allowed sports leagues, restaurants and even nightlife to flourish. But al-Shabab has continued to carry out suicide and roadside bomb attacks, sometimes with devastating effect. Last October militants detonated a truck loaded with fuel drums at a government ministry gate, killing more than 100 people.
The revival of sports in Mogadishu is an important part of the city’s recent transformation. Women – who lived under harsh rules when al-Shabab ruled the city – can now watch and play.
African Football Confederation president Issa Hayatou said: “It is another black day for African football. It’s a tragedy as Somali football lost a great leader … who was actively committed to football development despite very challenging conditions.”
Somali sport was rocked by at least two terrorist attacks last year.
In October, Somali Football Federation general secretary Said Arab and a national team player were hurt when a car bomb killed 57 people in Mogadishu.
Earlier in 2011, an under-20s international player was killed in a blast and two teammates were injured when they were walking home from a training session.
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