(MOGADISHU, Somalia) -- The president of the Somali Olympic Committee, Aden Yabarow Wiish and the Somali Football Federation chief Said Mohamed Nur were killed in a bomb blast during a ceremony at the newly re-opened National Theatre on Wednesday.
At least seven people were killed at the first anniversary of the relaunch of the state television in the east African nation, which has been plagued by civil war since the 1990s.
Muslim militant group al-Shabaab, which control parts of Somalia, claimed responsibility for the attack. The African Union troops assisted the government in pushing the militants out of the nation’s capital last year. The deadly attack disrupted a period of relative quiet in the city.
Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali who was at the ceremony was not injured, reports BBC News. He condemned al-Shabaab’s attack telling the BBC, "This is the last breaths of a dying horse, so now hopefully they will be eliminated from the face of the earth."
Al-Shabaab recently announced a formal alliance with al Qaeda which is believed to be regrouping in Africa.
While initial eye witness reports said the attack was carried out by a female suicide bomber, the militant group used their Twitter account to clarify the assertions.
"This operation wasn't carried out by [a] female as they allege but everything was carefully planned and orchestrated by specially trained unit," a spokesperson said on Twitter. The spokesperson said the explosives were not detonated by a suicide bomber, but had been planted in the theater before the gathering.
Somalia's National Theatre was opened for the first time in more than 20 years just two weeks ago. At the opening ceremony, hundreds gathered under the open sky because the roof had been destroyed in the course of the country's ongoing civil war.
The attack comes after reports emerged of a possible schism within al-Shabaab between its more nationalist leaders and the jihadis who wish to strike at global targets.
Last month, one of al-Shabaab's most high-profile American members, the Alabama-born Omar Hammami, also known as al-Amriki, appeared in a video that was posted online in which he said he feared other members of the terror group were going to kill him over "matters of the strategy." Just days ago, another major al-Shabaab leader publicly criticized the group publicly for killing civilians.
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