AT least five people including top sporting officials were killed and dozens injured when a teenage female suicide bomber sent by Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab blew herself up during a VIP celebration at Mogadishu’s newly-reopened National Theatre.
Residents assist a man injured in the explosion at the national theatre in Mogadishu Photo: REUTERS/Omar Faruk
Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, Somalia’s prime minister, was at the podium giving a speech when the girl detonated her explosives, at 11am local time on Wednesday.
Mr Ali was unharmed, but there were reports that one of the five government ministers also attending the event was slightly injured, as were two MPs.
At least five people died, including the presidents of the Somali Football Federation, the head of the country’s Olympic Committee, and a television cameraman, according to eye-witnesses.
Bodies were strewn across a large area as ambulances and private vehicles began ferrying the wounded to hospital.
Among them were well-known musicians and artists, and the deputy chairman of the National Union of Somali Journalists.
Al-Shabaab, Somalia's Islamist militants who are partnered with al-Qaeda, said that it carried out the attack.
"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 Shabaab's military operations, told Reuters.
The National Theatre reopened a fortnight ago – albeit still without a roof – for the first time in 20 years, signalling what many Somalis saw as the beginning of a return to normal life in Mogadishu after Islamist militants were pushed out late last year.
However, al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s franchise in Somalia, promised a fresh offensive in the sea-side capital.
The presidential palace has been repeatedly mortared in recent days, but the rounds have fallen short.
The suicide bomber, described by witnesses as being “less than 16 years old”, was initially refused admission to the event, Hassan Arab Isse, the Somali defence minister, told The Daily Telegraph.
“We are already investigating how she came to be refused to enter three times, but was allowed in the fourth time,” he said.