At least 15 people were killed and ten others wounded in the central Somali town of Galkayo on Monday when Shabaab militants attacked a Sufi religious centre, officials said.
The attack on the residential compound and shrine, home to a controversial Sufi cleric and his followers, took place early Monday while residents were still asleep.
“The attackers used a vehicle loaded with explosives to make their way into the compound before shooting indiscriminately at people inside,” said Abdirahman Mohamed, a security officer, adding that 15 people had been killed and 10 wounded.
“The targeted cleric was killed in the attack together with some of his followers,” Mohamed said.
Qoje Ahmed, another security official, said security forces had battled the attackers, who included four gunmen and a suicide bomber. He said one had been captured alive.
“The blast was very huge,” said witness Jamila Farah. “It destroyed most buildings in the compound.”
Somalia’s Al-Qaeda affiliate, the Shabaab, claimed responsibility for the attack saying it had targeted the cleric, Abdiweli Ali Elmi, alleging that he “had claimed to be a prophet”.
The group is fighting to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu and to impose an austere from of Islamic rule.
It regularly carries out bloody bombings and assaults against government, military and civilian targets.
Elmi was a controversial Sufi leader who had set up his own breakaway sect in Galkayo, attracting hundreds of followers who would play music and sing songs in praise of the Prophet Mohamed, a form or worship abhorred by the Shabaab.