2 blasts kill at least 30 in Somali capital

By Sudarsan Raghavan
Sunday, May 2, 2010

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA -- Two explosions ripped through a mosque in the Somali capital's biggest market Saturday, killing at least 30 people and wounding scores, according to officials, medical personnel and witnesses.

The bombings in Mogadishu, just minutes apart, were reminiscent of al-Qaeda-style assaults on religious sites in the Middle East and South Asia in recent years. They highlight the growing influence in Somalia of foreign jihadists, Somali officials and analysts say.

"It is the first time in Somalia that such a brutal act has happened inside a mosque," Information Minister Dahir Mohamud Gelle said. "It's a carbon copy of what's happening in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan."

The attacks occurred in the Abdala Shideya mosque in the Bakaro market, a stronghold of the hard-line Islamist militia al-Shabab, which is seeking to overthrow a U.S.-backed transitional government and create an Islamic caliphate in the chaotic East African state. Worshipers were preparing for midday prayers, about 12:45 p.m., when the first explosion occurred. As people rushed to help the wounded, the second bomb detonated, according to witnesses and Somali officials.

"The explosions were like earthquakes," said Ahmed Mohammed, 35, a businessman who works in the market. "There were so many bodies inside the mosque."

Abdul Qadir, the director of one of Mogadishu's two ambulance services, said his vehicles carried at least 52 patients to a hospital inside territory controlled by the Islamists. He said 40 people had died.

No group has asserted responsibility for the attacks. The mosque is widely known as a gathering place for members of al-Shabab, which the United States has labeled a terrorist organization. Its fighters swiftly cordoned off the mosque, Qadir said.

A senior al-Shabab leader, Fuad Shongole, is thought to have been injured in the blasts, suggesting that a rival militia or divisions within al-Shabab may have been responsible for the attacks. Others suspected the hand of international terrorists.

"It has the hallmarks of al-Qaeda," said Abdirahman Omar Osman, Somalia's treasury minister.

Since the fall of the Siad Barre regime in 1991, Somalia has been plagued by cycles of clan warfare and lawlessness. U.S. officials have long been concerned that Somalia could become a militant haven and a launching pad for jihadist violence in Africa and beyond.

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