The blast from a suicide bomber ripped through Somalia's national theater Wednesday, killing at least 10 people, including the presidents of Somalia's Olympic committee and soccer federations. The attack comes as the prime minister was speaking at an event to mark the first anniversary of the country's new satellite television channel.
Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said: “I was in the middle of my speech when that explosion happened.”
The prime minister was unharmed.
Fighters belonging to the Islamist group Al-Shabaab took credit for the attack, saying in a statement, “We were behind the theatre blast."
Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, the spokesman for Al Shabaab’s military operations, told Reuters: “We targeted the infidel ministers and legislators, and they were the casualties of today."
Ali Muse, the head of Mogadishu’s ambulance service, said at least 10 people were killed and dozens wounded. The country’s national planning minister was among the wounded. The blast cut chairs in half, filled the room with smoke and splattered blood across the walls.
“The blast happened as musicians were singing and spectators were clapping for them,” said Salah Jimale, who was in attendance at the theatre but received only light scratches. “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.”
Somalia's defense minister said the attack was carried out by a female suicide bomber who was “less than 16-years-old,” according to the Telegraph. She was denied entry to the event three times before being allowed in, he said. “We are already investigating how she came to be refused to enter three times, but was allowed in the fourth time,” Defense Minister Hassan Arab Isse said.
A period of relative peace had descended on Mogadishu after Al-Shabaab left, allowing sports leagues, restaurants and even a little night life to flourish.
Despite those advances, Al-Shabaab 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 International Olympic Committee issued a statement saying it was “shocked” by the deaths of two top sports officials.
“Both men were engaged in improving the lives of Somalian people through sport and we strongly condemn such an act of barbarism. Our thoughts are with the Somalian sporting community who lost two great leaders and with the families of the victims,” the IOC said.