February 29, 2012
At least five young football fans died and several others were injured after bomb went off at a football match in Mogadishu on Monday (February 27th).
The explosion took place at the Minishipio Stadium in the Wardhigley district in central Mogadishu during the finals of a local championship, part of an awareness campaign for social cohesion and integration organised by the Municipality of Mogadishu.
No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing, but the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) blamed al-Shabaab for the attack.
"The extremist al-Shabaab group is behind this attack that took place at a football stadium in Mogadishu," the TFG said in a statement.
"It is a sad day for all the Somali people when our children are massacred while just playing football in their own neighbourhood," Acting Minister of Information, Posts and Telecommunication Abdullahi Bile Noor said Tuesday in a statement on behalf of the TFG. "It is even a sadder state of affairs when the depraved people behind it claim to be Muslims."
In the statement, Noor stressed the Somali government's determination to strengthen security in public places, such as stadiums and amusement parks frequented by both children and adults.
"The Somali government is determined to continue its fight against these rebels who have grown accustomed to shedding the blood of our innocent children and citizens," Noor said, adding that the Somali government will spare no effort to protect its people.
"Such incidents will not intimidate the Somali people and the armed forces, supported by the Somali people, will prevail against these cowards and all the militants and extremists will be rooted out," Noor said.
The TFG recently started encouraging administrations of several districts in Mogadishu to organise activities such as sports events to support peace and reinforce social integration in the capital, as well as to show that life in Mogadishu has returned to normal.
Despite improvements in the security situation in the capital, hand-grenade attacks, suicide car-bombings and improvised explosive devices still threaten the city.
Al-Shabaab threatened to intensify attacks in Mogadishu after Somali security forces pushed the militant group out of its strongholds in the capital and other areas of Somalia. Somali police said they have been on high alert to enforce security in the capital and prevent attacks targeting innocent civilians.
Soon after Monday's attack, security forces rushed to the scene to open an investigation into the circumstances of the incident. Eyewitnesses described the scene to Sabahi.
"The explosion took place in the stadium moments before the football match started, which was a final game between two local teams," Abdirasaq Hassan Yemeni, an eyewitness to the explosion, told Sabahi.
"There were no worries of an attack taking place, despite the fact that the police had found an explosive device in the stadium grounds," he said. "Hundreds of football enthusiasts and fans of both teams gathered and spectators took their seats, all waiting for the game to kick off. And then suddenly, a massive explosion happened at the entrance to the stadium, with tens of spectators nearby."
Yemeni said most of those present at the stadium were overcome with fear when the explosion occurred.
Abdirahman Farah, another eyewitness, told Sabahi everyone left the stadium immediately after the explosion.
"I saw the bodies of two boys who died in the explosion and seven others who were injured, among them some of my friends," he said.
"Almost all of the victims were spectators and none of the players were harmed," Farah said.
Mohammed Moalem, an ambulance driver for al-Ameen Foundation for Ambulance Services in Mogadishu told Sabahi that most of the victims of the attack were youths, and that some remain in critical condition.
"The foundation's ambulances transported 15 victims from the scene of the blast to Mogadishu hospitals and three of them died later from severe injuries, while the remaining 12 are being treated at the hospitals," Moalem said.
On Tuesday, the TFG said two more victims succumbed to their injuries overnight, raising the number who died to five.
The area where the blast took place had been the scene of fighting between government forces and al-Shabaab militants, before al-Shabaab withdrew from the capital in August.
Eyewitnesses who spoke with Sabahi said they wondered if a landmine planted in the stadium accidentally went off, causing the blast, or whether the bomb had been deliberately planted and detonated during the match.
Colonel Mohammed Abdi, a local police official who arrived at the stadium after the incident, dispelled the queries. "There is no doubt in our minds that the explosive device was recently planted in the stadium grounds targeting this final match," he told Sabahi.
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