MOGADISHU: Two explosions rocked a mosque Saturday in Somalia’s restive capital Mogadishu, killing at least 25 people and injuring scores of others, officials said.
“The collected bodies I counted numbered 25,” Ali Muse, the head of Mogadishu’s ambulance service, told AFP. The explosions, whose cause is still unknown, went off in the crowded Bakara market area, a militant stronghold, just as people finished Zuhr prayers in a mosque there. Explosions are common in Mogadishu but Saturday’s blast was the worst since a suicide bomb attack in a hotel in December left 57 dead..
“Many people were inside the mosque when the explosions went off. Everyone was bleeding and some were already dead,” witness Shukri Yahye said. “These were the heaviest explosions ever inside Bakara. It was near the mosque and it was hard to distinguish between the dead and the wounded,” Abdulahi Mohamed Hersi, a grocer, said, adding that around 30 people died. An official with the al Qaedainspired Shebab militant group, Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage confirmed “scores of people were killed and wounded”.
Another Shebab official earlier told AFP that the blasts targeted its head of mobilisation Sheikh Fu’ad Mohamed Khalaf, better known as Fu’ad Shongole, who was in the mosque. Rage said Shongole was “wounded on the right arm but will recover”. “This was an act of terrorism carried out by mercenaries hired by the so-called government of Somalia,” Rage charged, saying his group will retaliate.
The Shebab last week attempted a suicide attack on the base of African Union troops in Mogadishu but the peacekeepers foiled the attack. Shebab said the attack was in retaliation for the recent killing of top al Qaeda commanders in Iraq.