Somalia’s government has decided to ban Christmas celebration in the country, warning that such Christian festivities could threaten the nation’s Muslim faith.
An official at the religious affairs ministry said: “Those celebrations are not in any way related to Islam.”
Security agencies have been directed to stay alert to stop any gatherings.
Foreigners are free to mark the Christian holiday in their own homes, but hotels and other public places have been prohibited from marking the day.
Local media quote Mohamed Kheyrow, a top official at Somalia’s justice and religious affairs ministry, as saying: “Having Muslims celebrate Christmas in Somalia is not the right thing, such things are akin to the abandonment.”
Correspondents say as Somalia recovers from years of civil war, a growing number of Somalis who grew up in the diaspora are returning home, some of them bringing Western customs with them.
Christmas is not widely celebrated in Somalia, which officially adopted Sharia in 2009, but the odd event was held – especially as an excuse to hold a party.
Christmas celebrations will be allowed at UN compounds and bases for African Union peacekeepers, who are in the country to back the government’s fight against the al-Qaeda-linked militants.
Kenyan fighter jets have targeted al-Shabab camps in neighboring Somalia in response to Garissa University attack.
The warplanes had bombed two camps in Gondodowe and Ismail, both in the Gedo region, used by al-Shabab to cross into Kenya, military sources say.
This is Kenya’s first response to an al-Shabab assault which left 148 people dead at Garissa University last week.
President Uhuru Kenyatta had vowed to respond to the attack “in the severest way possible”.
Al-Shabab said the assault in Garissa, which is 120 miles from the Somali border, was revenge for Kenya sending troops into Somalia to fight alongside African Union peacekeepers against the group.
The Islamist group, which at one point controlled most of Somalia, has lost swaths of territory in recent years but diplomats have repeatedly warned this has not diminished its ability to stage guerrilla-style attacks at home and abroad.
Five suspects have been detained in Kenya over the al-Shabab attack on Garissa University campus on April 2 which left almost 150 people dead, officials say.
Some of the suspects were arrested while trying to flee to neighboring Somalia, the internal security ministry said.
At least 148 people – mostly students – were killed when gunmen attacked a university campus in Garissa.
Al-Shabab has since pledged a “long, gruesome war” against Kenya.
The militant group said its attacks were in retaliation for acts by Kenya’s security forces, which are part of the African Union’s mission in Somalia against al-Shabab.
In Garissa, a survivor has emerged from hiding more than two days after the assault was unleashed.
The 19-year-old girl was found unhurt in a cupboard on April 4, but security officials had to bring in a teacher to convince her that it was safe to come out.
She told reporters that she drank body lotion when she felt hungry.
Four other people were found alive on the campus on April 3, including two suspects. One was said to be a Tanzanian national with no known links to the university.
While many of the survivors spoke to the media, little is known so far about those who were killed.
Their bodies have been flown to Nairobi for identification, as local mortuaries have been unable to cope, and many of the students killed came from other parts of Kenya.
There has been criticism in Garissa, which is 100 miles from the Somali border, at how the security services dealt with the attack.
Only two guards were on duty at the time of the assault, despite official warnings that an attack on an institution of higher learning was likely.
One survivor said the students had raised security issues late last year. Another said the gunmen appeared to know the site well.
In an address to the nation after the attack, President Uhuru Kenyatta said he had instructed the police chief to speed up the training of 10,000 recruits, because Kenya had “suffered unnecessarily” because of a shortage of security personnel.
Police in neighboring Uganda say they have received information suggesting a similar attack is being planned there.
Tropical Cyclone 03A that hit Somalia’s north-eastern Puntland region at the weekend has killed at least 140 people, and the number could rise to 300, a government minister has said.
Somali central government has declared a state of emergency in the region, and has appealed for international aid.
Thousands of livestock have also died and hundreds of homes have been destroyed by Cyclone 03A.
The cyclone has subsided, but officials say heavy rains are still expected.
Puntland is a semi-autonomous region within Somalia and a large part of its population relies on livestock herding and fishing.
The tropical cyclone swept through the Eyl, Beyla, Dangorayo and Hafun districts along the east coast and across to Alula on the tip of the Horn of Africa.
“So far we have confirmed the storm killed 140 people. We are afraid the death toll may reach 300 because many people are still missing,” Puntland’s Interior Minister Abdullahi Ahmed told Reuters news agency.
Tropical Cyclone 03A that hit Somalia’s north-eastern Puntland region at the weekend has killed at least 140 people
A government statement said Puntland’s security forces had failed to transport 60 tonnes of aid to affected communities because heavy flooding had made many dirt roads to the worst-affected areas impassable.
“The storm has destroyed entire villages, homes, buildings and boats,” the statement added.
Makeshift shelters had been built to accommodate displaced people, it said.
The government has appealed to international aid agencies to help with air-drops of relief supplies, including clean water, non-perishable food, tents, blankets and medicines.
Ten doctors and two ambulances were attending to people in need of medical treatment, the statement said.
On Tuesday, Somalia’s government pledged $1 million to help communities devastated by the cyclone.
The central government “shared the pain” of communities, PM Abdi Farah Shirdon said.
Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) is closing all its programmes in Somalia after 22 years working in the war-torn country.
MSF said in a statement that the decision had been taken because of “extreme attacks on its staff”.
The charity said armed groups and civilian leaders increasingly “support, tolerate or condone the killing, assaulting, and abducting of humanitarian aid workers”.
More than 1,500 staff have provided a range of services across Somalia.
MSF is closing all its programmes in Somalia after 22 years working in the war-torn country
Unni Karunakara, MSF’s international president, said it has been one of the hardest decisions the charity has ever had to make.
Since 1991, when Somalia descended into civil war, 16 MSF workers have been killed and there had been dozens of attacks on its staff, ambulances and medical facilities, the charity said.
Last month, two of its Spanish members of staff who were kidnapped nearly two years ago and held in Somalia were freed.
“Ultimately, civilians in Somalia will pay the highest cost,” Dr. Unni Karunakara said in a statement.
“Much of the Somali population has never known the country without war or famine.
“Already receiving far less assistance than is needed, the armed groups’ targeting of humanitarian aid, and civilians leaders’ tolerance of these abuses, has effectively taken away what little access to medical care is available to the Somali people.”
Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a top Islamist in Somalia, has arrived in the capital Mogadishu amid reports of a split in the al-Shabab group.
He was flown from the northern town of Adado, escorted by government security forces, but it is unclear whether he has surrendered or defected.
The UN says he gave himself up to government allies after infighting but clan elders deny this.
Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys is considered a terrorist by the UN and the United States.
Regarded as the elder statesman of Somali Islamists, he has been on a US list of people “linked to terrorism” since shortly after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
A new UN-backed government in Mogadishu is trying to regain control of the country from al-Shabab after more than 20 years of conflict.
Supported by some 18,000 African Union soldiers, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s administration is the first in more than two decades to be recognized by the US and the International Monetary Fund.
Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a top Islamist in Somalia, has arrived in the capital Mogadishu amid reports of a split in the al-Shabab group
Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys was flown by plane from Adado, a town about 310 miles north of the capital.
“If he renounces violence, then we can start the discussion about the options available,” government spokesman Abdirahman Omar Osman told Reuters news agency, without describing the options.
Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys left al-Shabab territory after factions within the al-Qaeda linked group clashed last week – the first deadly infighting since it launched an insurgency in 2006.
Al-Shabab, which means “The Youth”, is fighting to create an Islamic state in Somalia – and despite being pushed out of key cities in the past two years still remains in control of smaller towns and large swathes of the countryside.
It was as a radical offshoot of the now-defunct Union of Islamic Courts, which was led by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys and for much of that year controlled Mogadishu and many southern and central areas.
The exact cause of the al-Shabab split is not known, but there has been a long-running internal power struggle between its leader Ahmed Abdi Godane and those seen as more moderate who oppose links with al-Qaeda, analysts say.
There are conflicting reports about the fate of the second-in-command – Ibrahim Afghan, the al-Shabab founder – following last week’s fighting.
Initially, sources said he had been captured and was in al-Shabab detention; subsequent reports in local media say he has been executed.
A new report by the UN food agency and the US-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network has found that nearly 260,000 people died during the famine that hit Somalia from 2010 to 2012.
Half of them were children under the age of five, says the report.
The number of deaths was higher than the estimated 220,000 people who died during the 1992 famine.
The crisis was caused by a severe drought, worsened by conflict between rival groups fighting for power.
UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) senior economist Mark Smulders said the “true enormity of this human tragedy” had emerged for the first time from the study, done jointly with the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET).
“By nature, estimating mortality in emergencies is an imprecise science, but given the quantity and quality of data that were available, we are confident in the strength of the study,” said FEWS NET official Chris Hillbruner.
Somalia famine killed 260,000 people from 2010 to 2012
“It suggests that what occurred in Somalia was one of the worst famines in the last 25 years,” he added.
The UN first declared a famine in July 2011 in Somalia’s Southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions, which were controlled by the militant Islamist group al-Shabab, which is aligned to al-Qaeda.
It denied there was a famine and banned several Western aid agencies from operating in its areas.
The famine later spread to other areas, including Middle Shabelle, Afgoye and at camps for displaced people in the government-controlled capital, Mogadishu.
An estimated 4.6% of the total population and 10% of children under five died in southern and central Somalia, the report says.
“The report confirms we should have done more before the famine was declared,” said Philippe Lazzarini, UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia.
“Warnings that began as far back as the drought in 2010 did not trigger sufficient early action,” he said in a statement, AFP news agency reports.
In Lower Shabelle, 18% of children under five died and in Mogadishu 17%, the report said.
Somalia was worst hit by extreme drought in 2011 that affected more than 13 million people across the Horn of Africa.
Tens of thousands of people fled their homes in search of food.
The UN declared the famine over in February 2012.
“While conditions in Somalia have improved in recent months, the country still has one of the highest rates of child malnutrition and infant mortality in the world,” Ben Foot, from the charity Save the Children, said in a statement.
During more than 20 years of civil war, Somalia has seen clan-based warlords, rival politicians and Islamist militants battle for control – a situation that has allowed lawlessness to flourish.
Last September, a UN-backed government came to power, after eight years of transitional rule, bringing some stability to some areas.
The Supreme Court in Somalia has freed journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, who was imprisoned for interviewing a woman who alleged she had been raped by security forces.
Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, 27, and his interviewee were jailed in February after being convicted of offending state institutions.
In early March the woman was freed on appeal, but the journalist, who did not report the story, was held in jail.
The Supreme Court said on Sunday that charges against Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim had been dropped.
Leaving court, Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim said: “I’m very happy that I got my freedom back, I thank those who worked in this process that helped my release including my lawyers.”
The case prompted an outcry from human rights groups and journalists, who said it was politically motivated.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was “deeply disappointed”.
The Supreme Court in Somalia has freed journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, who was imprisoned for interviewing a woman who alleged she had been raped by security forces
Both the woman and Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim were originally given one-year jail terms.The woman had reported the alleged rape at a police station in Mogadishu and prosecutors alleged she and others had been paid by Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim to lie.
She was convicted after the judge cited disputed medical evidence saying she had not been raped.
Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, who was detained in January, was accused by police of collecting material for an al-Jazeera media report on rape in camps for displaced people.
He had been working for Somali radio stations and international media but had not been involved in the story in question, the network said.
A new government backed by the UN came to power last September, after eight years of transitional rule.
Somali has seen more than 20 years of conflict which saw clan-based warlords, rival politicians and Islamist militants battle for control of the country.
France’s President Francois Hollande has ordered security stepped up around public buildings and transport because of military operations in Africa.
Francois Hollande was responding to the risk of Islamist attack after French forces attacked militants in Mali and Somalia.
A pilot was killed as air strikes were launched on a column of Malian rebels.
In Somalia, two French soldiers were “sacrificed” in a raid to free a French hostage, Francois Hollande said. The hostage was believed to have died.
France’s anti-terrorism alert system known as “Vigipirate” is being reinforced immediately, with security boosted at public buildings and transport networks, particularly rail and air. Public gatherings will also be affected.
The alert will remain at red, the second-highest level at which emergency counter-attack measures are put in place.
The “struggle against terrorism” required all necessary precautions to be taken in France itself, the president said.
Francois Hollande’s remarks came within hours of one of the Islamist groups targeted by French military action in Mali threatening reprisals against France.
An Ansar Dine spokesman told Reuters news agency there would be consequences for French citizens throughout the Muslim world.
The operations in Mali and Somalia were launched within hours of each other but were “totally unconnected”, according to government officials.
French troops were deployed in Mali on Friday after the army lost control of a strategically important town to Islamists who were advancing south. The rebels took control of a huge swathe of northern Mali last April.
The central town of Konna has since been recaptured, the Malian government says.
President Francois Hollande has ordered security stepped up around public buildings and transport because of military operations in Mali and Somalia
Then, French commandos went into action in Somalia, swooping on the town of Bulo Marer in an attempt to free Denis Allex, who was kidnapped in July 2009.
A battle erupted with al-Shabab militants and, according to President Francois Hollande, the operation failed “despite the sacrifice of two of our soldiers and probably the assassination of our hostage”.
Earlier, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said one of the soldiers had been killed, another was missing, and “all the indications” were that Denis Allex had been killed by his captors.
But al-Shabab insists the hostage was not in the area at the time of the raid and is alive.
Hundreds of French troops have been deployed in Mali, both in the conflict zone near Konna and in the capital, Bamako.
An estimated 6,000 French expatriates are said to live in Bamako and one of the tasks of the French mission is to guarantee their security.
President Francois Hollande said “heavy losses” had been inflicted on France’s adversaries “but our mission is not over yet”. A Malian army officer said that more than 100 rebels had been killed.
The defence minister said earlier that Paris had decided to act urgently to stop the Islamist offensive, which threatened to create “a terrorist state within range of France and Europe”.
He also revealed that a French helicopter pilot, Lieutenant Damien Boiteux, was killed in Friday’s fighting – during an air raid to support Mali’s ground troops in the battle for Konna.
Eleven Malian soldiers have also been killed and 60 injured in fighting around Konna, Malian interim President Dioncounda Traore said in a statement.
There were reports of civilian casualties too, with Human Rights Watch talking of ten deaths in Konna.
On Saturday, Dioncounda Traore called Francois Hollande to thank him for the operation, the AFP news agency reports.
Dioncounda Traore declared a state of emergency on Friday, which he said would remain in place for an initial period of 10 days.
West African bloc Ecowas has authorized the immediate deployment of 2,000 troops to Mali and UK Prime Minister David Cameron said British forces would offer logistical assistance to help transport troops and equipment.
The Ecowas troops – from Niger, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Togo – are expected to arrive in the next 10 days.
A government official in Niger told Reuters around 500 troops would be sent while AFP reported that Burkina Faso was sending a similar force.
In a statement, Ecowas Commission President Kadre Desire Ouedraogo said the decision was made “in light of the urgency of the situation”.
For some months, Ecowas had been planning to send 3,300 troops to Mali with the aim of helping government forces reclaim the north of the country.
However, even though the mission was authorized by the United Nations, its deployment was not due to take place until later this year.
Although the French operation appears to have halted the rebel offensive, the logistics are complicated and the task of recapturing northern Mali remains a daunting one.
A French soldier has been killed in Somalia during a failed operation to free hostage Denis Allex who is also believed to have died, the defence minister said.
Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters in Paris that a second soldier was missing after the operation.
A battle erupted with al-Shabab militants after commandos swooped on the town of Bulo Marer overnight.
The raid came hours after French troops intervened in the west African state of Mali.
France was “engaged in a merciless fight against terrorism wherever it is found”, Jean-Yves Le Drian said.
The French government knew well the intervention would have dangerous implications for the nine French hostages being held across northern Africa.
Jean-Yves Le Drian said “all the indications” were that hostage Denis Allex, kidnapped in Somalia in July 2009, had been killed by his captors during the operation.
But al-Shabab said Denis Allex, an agent of France’s DGSE intelligence service, was not in the area and was unharmed.
Earlier, the French defence ministry announced that he had been killed. It also said that two French soldiers had died in the fighting, along with 17 militants in the town in the lower Shebelle region.
Ina statement, al-Shabab reported a “fierce firefight” that lasted 45 minutes.
A French soldier has been killed in Somalia during a failed operation to free hostage Denis Allex who is also believed to have died
Giving no details of its own casualties, the group said it had killed “several” French soldiers and had captured an injured soldier.
The injured soldier would be shown to the press, once security allowed, the group said.
Denis Allex, according to al-Shabaab, was “safe and far from the location of the battle”. An announcement about his fate would be made within two days, the group said, promising “bitter consequences” for the French government.
Residents said at least four civilians including a pregnant woman were killed and others wounded in cross-fire.
They reported seeing the body of a foreign soldier lying on the ground, with helicopters hovering over him.
One unnamed resident said: “Last night while I was sleeping I heard small-arms fire.
“After 10 minutes of shooting, helicopters joined the fight and started firing at targets on the ground, and people on the ground were firing back.
“Nobody could get out of their houses. The helicopters were hovering over the town.”
Of the other French hostages, at least six are being held by the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb group, AFP news agency reports.
Denis Allex appeared in a video in June 2010, appealing to France to drop its support for the Somali government.
He last appeared in another video in October, looking gaunt and calling on French President Francois Hollande to work for his release.
Somalia has not had an effective central government for more than two decades.
France has a large military base in neighboring Djibouti, including army, marine and air force units.
On Friday, President Francois Hollande announced that French forces were supporting an offensive by the Malian government to regain territory captured by Islamist militants in the north.
It was confirmed that French jets had made air strikes as Islamist rebels were forced out of the town of Konna.
Jean-Yves Le Drian said a French helicopter pilot was killed in the fighting.
Francois Hollande said Islamists had been trying to turn Mali into a “terrorist” state and the French intervention complied with international law and had been agreed with Malian interim President Dioncounda Traore.
The first Somali government and African Union (AU) troops are reported to have entered the strategic Somali port of Kismayo, witnesses and officials say.
They have been battling the al-Shabab militia for control of the city.
On Saturday, the al-Qaeda-aligned militants said they had withdrawn from Kismayo after an AU military assault.
Kenyan and Somali forces had launched a beach assault on the Islamist group’s last major bastion the day before, but had met some resistance.
Reports as to the size and make-up of the AU contingent have been mixed.
One resident said Somali Service that a small infantry unit of 11 Somali soldiers had entered the city from the west and were patrolling on foot on the main roads of Kismayo, while another said he had seen both Kenyan and Somali troops entering the city centre from the airport.
Around 100 troops were seen by a tribal elder in Kismayo taking over a police station and setting up an outpost on top of a tall building.
Somali government spokesman in Kismayo Mohamed Faarah Daher said AU and Somali forces had gone in to the city to establish security for the population, and had also taken up positions at the airport and sea port.
Kenyan troops are part of an African force trying to wrest control of Somalia from militants for the new United Nations-backed president.
After resisting the AU and Somali advance on Friday, al-Shabab announced it had shut its five-year administration in Kismayo the next day for strategic reasons.
Residents had spoken of increasing tension inside the port town amid the power vacuum that ensued.
A number of influential clan figures have been murdered in the past few days.
The Kenyan military said that Kenyan, Somali and AU troops were “currently consolidating the gains in Kismayo and expanding out to the rest of the city”, according to a message on its official Twitter account.
Kenyan soldiers have “established no-fire zones around markets, schools, mosques and hospitals”, another message read. Kenyan troops are reported to be present in Kismayo’s suburbs but not in the city centre.
The Kenyan Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi said Kenya welcomed the move on Kismayo.
“Kenya has been bearing the brunt of the instability in Somalia for a very long time. We host 650,000 refugees and we have been seeing sporadic incidents of grenade attacks in Kenya,” he said.
“So any action supported by the international community… is very positive because it is going to give room for Somalia to stabilize,” he added.
Last week, a Kenya military spokesperson said he feared the withdrawal might be a trap, making the army wary of entering Kismayo. There have been unconfirmed reports that al-Shabab may have mined parts of the town.
Correspondents say the loss of Kismayo will be a major blow to the Islamists.
Somalia’s second largest port is a significant source of revenue for whoever controls it and al-Shabab also used the port to bring in weapons.
AU troops pushed al-Shabab from the Somali capital, Mogadishu, in August 2011.
Along with other pro-government forces they have gone on to take control of most of the major towns previously in the hands of the militants.
But the al-Qaeda-linked group’s fighters are still highly active in much of the countryside in southern and central Somalia and have carried out attacks in cities they no longer control.
Since the overthrow of President Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia has seen clan-based warlords, Islamist militants and its neighbors all battling for control.
Six Somali civilians have been shot dead by a Kenyan soldier advancing towards the al-Shabab stronghold of Kismayo, the Kenyan army has confirmed.
The soldier has been detained pending an investigation, it said, noting the incident followed a militant attack.
Somali army spokesman Adan Mohamed Hirsi earlier said: “It was a deliberate killing.”
Meanwhile, the Hizbul Islam group has announced that it is leaving the al-Shabab militant organization.
It is a significant setback for al-Shabab, following recent military defeats.
Kenyan troops intervened in Somalia a year ago after a spate of cross-border attacks blamed on the al-Qaeda linked al-Shabab.
The shooting happened about 50 km (30 miles) from Kismayo, the largest city still in militant hands.
Six Somali civilians have been shot dead by a Kenyan soldier advancing towards the al-Shabab stronghold of Kismayo
Adan Mohamed Hirsi condemned the killings and asked the Somali government to take action.
“This incident is very hurtful,” he said, adding that a group of young men were shot outside a shop in the village of Janay Abdalla.
They were reportedly queuing to buy sugar.
As well as those killed, two civilians were seriously wounded, Adan Mohamed Hirsi said.
Kenyan military spokesman Col. Cyrus Oguna said the incident happened shortly after al-Shabab militants attacked Kenyan soldiers who were escorting people to collect water from a well in the village, killing five civilians and one soldier.
“Later on in the day, several people approached KDF [Kenya Defence Forces] defensive positions, where a KDF soldier allegedly opened fire killing six people,” he said in a statement.
“The soldier was disarmed and has since been put on guarded seclusion,” he said, adding that appropriate action would be taken after the investigation.
Col. Cyrus Oguna said the Kenyan operations in Somalia should not be judged by this “unfortunate incident” and that the “utmost care and concern for civilian safety” were taken.
Kenyan forces have in the past been accused of causing civilian deaths in Kismayo while shelling al-Shabab targets inside the city from ships operating off the coast.
Some 10,000 people have fled Kismayo in the past week, the United Nations refugee agency estimates.
Al-Shabab has been forced out of the capital, Mogadishu, and several other towns over the past year but still controls much of the countryside in south and central Somalia.
However, it still stages frequent attacks.
On Saturday, gunmen shot dead a member of Somalia’s new parliament in Mogadishu.
Mustafa Haji Maalim was gunned down after leaving a mosque in the southern Waberi district following evening prayers, witnesses said.
The dead lawmaker was the father-in-law of former President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, and is the first parliamentarian to be targeted since a new 275-member assembly was selected in August.
No-one has so far claimed the attack, though al-Shabab has previously vowed to kill government officials.
On Thursday, a double suicide attack in Mogadishu targeting a restaurant recently opened by Somalis from the diaspora killed 18 people.
Hizbul Islam spokesman Mohamed Moalim said his group still wanted the African Union mission to leave Somalia but welcomed the new president and parliament as a “positive development”.
He said the split was due to long-standing ideological differences, such as his group’s opposition to the use of foreign jihadis.
The two forces merged in 2010, following bitter clashes.
Since the overthrow of President Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia has seen clan-based warlords, Islamist militants and its neighbors all battling for control.
Members of Somalia’s Olympic committee and Football Federation heads are among seven people killed in a suicide blast at Mogadishu’s national theater re-opening ceremony.
Somali PM Abdiweli Mohamed Ali was also present when the attacker struck the newly re-opened national theatre, but he said he was unhurt.
Al-Shabab militants say they carried out the bombing.
The theatre closed in the early 1990s as Somalia descended into civil war and was only reopened last month, amid a new period of relative optimism.
Seven people have been killed in a suicide blast at Mogadishu’s national theater re-opening ceremony
The President of the Somali Olympic Committee, Aden Yabarow Wiish, and the Somali Football Federation chief, Said Mohamed Nur, were among a group of dignitaries who had gathered to mark the first anniversary of the launch of Somalia’s national television station.
According to Somali Service, three Somali television journalists were also wounded in the blast.
Eyewitnesses said the attacker was a woman.
Al-Shabab militants who had controlled large parts of the country, including Mogadishu, were pushed out of the city by troops from the African Union last year.
Since then, there has been a period of relative quiet, with sporting activity resuming, restaurants opening, and the re-opening of the National Theatre.
But al-Shabab has continued to attack the capital with bombs and mortars.
The EU has agreed to expand its mission against Somali pirates, by allowing military forces to attack land targets as well as those at sea.
In a two year-extension of its Atalanta Operation, the European Union defense ministers agreed warships could target boats and fuel dumps.
The move is a significant step-up in operations, but one that also risks escalation.
Several EU naval ships are currently on patrol off the Horn of Africa.
They police shipping routes and protect humanitarian aid.
The EU says the main tasks of the mission are the protection of vessels of the World Food Programme delivering food aid to displaced people in Somalia, and the fight against piracy off the Somali coast.
The EU has agreed to expand its mission against Somali pirates, by allowing military forces to attack land targets as well as those at sea
In a statement, the EU’s foreign policy head Catherine Ashton said fighting piracy was a priority of the mission in the Horn of Africa.
“Today’s important decision extends [Operation] Atalanta’s mandate for two more years and allows it to take more robust action on the Somali coast,” Catherine Ashton said.
The EU said “a budget of 14.9 million Euros ($19.7 million) is provided for the common costs of the prolonged mandate”.
A British tourist was murdered and his wife was kidnapped by pirates during their stay at an exclusive Kenyan beach resort.
The British couple, David and Judith Tebbutt, was attacked on Saturday late in the night by a gang carrying guns within hours of arriving in a beach cottage close to the border with lawless Somalia.
The attackers arrived at the private resort by speedboat and stormed into the couple’s secluded hut, which had just a piece of cloth as the door, and demanded all their money.
One of the Kiwayu Safari Village's exclusive bungalows, where David Tebbutt was killed and Judith Tebbutt kidnapped
David Tebbutt, 56, finance director of publishers Faber and Faber, was presumed to try to stop the gang but he died eventually from a single gunshot wound to the chest.
The assailants then forced Judith Tebbutt, 56, into the motorboat and locals reported that they sped off north in the direction of Somalia.
David Tebbutt, 56, finance director of publishers Faber and Faber, died from a single gunshot wound to the chest
Helicopters, speed boats and a spotter plane deployed in the search of the British woman, but no sightings of her have been reported.
On Sunday, there were suggestions Judith Tebbutt had been taken by an Islamist group Harakat al-Shabab al Mujahideen, an extremist group based in Somalia, according to The Guardian.
If Somali pirates are to blame, it would be the first time they had moved on to land to capture western hostages in what, at sea, has become a lucrative multi-million pound business in ransom demands.
All the other hostages – including British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler – have been taken during raids on ships and yachts in the Indian Ocean.
The FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) confirmed yesterday it has sent a team from Nairobi to work with Kenyan authorities to secure Judith Tebbutt’s release.
According to Kenyan police commissioner Matthew Iteere, who revealed the identity of the couple:
“So far we are treating it as a bandit attack. We’ve not received any hint pointing at a terror group.
“The gunmen gained entry very easily because only a piece of cloth was used in the place of the door at their cottage. They may contact us demanding a ransom. Maybe they are from Somalia but we cannot be certain.”
The British couple is believed to have travelled to the Kenyan coast for the second part of a two-leg trip which had earlier seen them enjoy a safari in the Masai Mara game reserve.
David and Judith Tebbutt are from Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire and have a 25-year-old son.
The couple had only checked into the Kiwayu Safari Village resort, near the island of Lamu, in the same day at 4:00 p.m.
They were the only tourists at the resort that boasts around-the-clock security with 21 guards who patrol alongside six police officers.
Kiwayu Safari Village resort has a total of 18 bungalows are spread out over a mile of beach. The price for a bungalow is £600 a night in September – the off-season, but the cost is nearer to £900 a night during the December peak season.
Mick Jagger, actress Imelda Staunton and artist Tracey Emin have stayed in the bungalows and it had been also considered by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for their honeymoon.
Despite its setting near a national reserve, the resort is barely outside the safety zone from the Somali border recommended by the Foreign Office.
A statement posted on the FCO travel advice website said:
“We continue to advise against all but essential travel to within 30 kilometres of Kenya’s border with Somalia. There have been previous attacks by Somali militia into Kenya. Three aid workers were kidnapped in July 2009, and two western nuns in November 2008.”
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