Cleric, 14 others die in Somalia attack


Al Shabaab gunmen and a suicide car bomber struck a religious centre in central Somalia, killing a cleric and at least 14 followers, a police officer said.

The Islamist militant group accused the cleric of insulting Prophet Mohamed, which he denied.

The group was forced from Mogadishu in 2011 and most towns and cities but retains a strong presence outside the capital and launches frequent bombings and other attacks in a campaign to topple the federal government.
“The security operation is over. Al Shabaab killed 15 people including the cleric, his wife, his followers and his guards,” Captain Nur Mohamed, a police officer, told Reuters from Galkayo.
“Three militants who stormed the centre were shot dead.”

The group took responsibility for the attack and put the number of dead at 26. It said soldiers who responded to the first attack died as they tried to remove a second car bomb.
“We killed 26 people including the centre owner, his followers, his bodyguards and soldiers,” Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab military operations spokesman, said.
“The owner of the centre abused the prophet. The soldiers who died tried to drive away a second car bomb left by the armed Mujahideen.”

Residents of Galkayo and a regional official said Abdiweli may have been targeted because his centre hosts mostly youth who play music and dance.

Al Shabaab said last year the cleric insulted the Prophet, an accusation denied at the time by Abdiweli.

Abdirashid Hashi, governor of Mudug region, told Reuters al Shabaab threatened Abdiweli on numerous occasions.

An elder in Galkayo said Abdiweli provided free boarding to former pirates, street boys and jobless men and they became followers.
“He used to tell teenagers: ‘If you were a pirate, or a bandit, stop it and come and dance, eat food and sleep here’. God will forgive your sins. Some ignorant teenagers thought he was as saint and joined him,” local elder Ismail Abdirahman told Reuters.
“We understood there was something wrong with him but we could not take him to court because the man was well armed.”

Al Shabaab is fighting to establish its own rule based on its harsh interpretation of Islamic law. The group controls small sections on Mudug region, but not Galkayo.