News in English

Officials killed in Somalia theatre blast

Al-Shabab rebels have claimed responsibility for an explosion at Somalia’s newly reopened national theatre in Mogadishu that killed at least 10 people, including two of the country’s top sports officials.

Ali Muse, the head of Mogadishu’s ambulance service, said at least 10 people were killed and dozens wounded in the blast on Wednesday.

The dead included the president of Somalia’s Olympic committee and the president of its football federation, according to Shafici Mohyadin, the federation’s secretary.

“We were behind the theatre blast. We targeted the infidel ministers and legislators, and they were the casualties of today,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, the spokesman for al-Shabab’s military operations, told the Reuters news agency.

Abbas Abdi, a journalist in Mogadishu, told Al Jazeera that a suspected suicide bomber had detonated explosives at a celebration for Somali TV where Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, the Somali prime minister, and other government officials were present.

The reopening of the theatre on March 19 had been hailed by the government as signalling a marked improvement in security in the war-ravaged Horn of Africa country.

But al-Shabab rebels, who pulled out of the capital last August, have continued to strike targets in the heart of the coastal city using roadside bombs, mortar and suicide bombers.

Ambulance sirens wailed as they rushed people to hospitals after the blast.

Al-Shabab said on March 14, after one its suicide bombers struck at the presidential palace, that more attacks would follow.

The presidential palace has come under mortar attack several times in the last two weeks. The bombs have mostly fallen short, killing civilians.

Police and residents secure the area around the national theatre after Wednesday’s explosion. [Omar Faruk/Reuters]