A bomb exploded during a local soccer (football) game in southern Somalia’s restive Lower-Shabelle province on Thursday, killing at least four people, security officials said.
“An improvised explosive device went off during the semifinal of a local soccer team’s cup” in Barawe town, Bashir Mohamed Yusuf, the town’s deputy commissioner for security, told VOA.
Yusuf and hospital sources said at least 13 people were also wounded in Barawe, which is about 220 kilometers southwest of the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
“The bomb was planted in the VIP section of the soccer stadium with the intention of harming the local authorities,” said Yusuf. “But since we tactically sat at a different location today, it hit some of the football players and spectators.”
A spectator who was at the soccer field at the time and asked to remain anonymous said the bomb exploded at the start of the second half of the game between locally popular teams Elmen and SYL, and “it seems it was detonated remotely from the nearby areas.”
Barawe is a strategic port town and major base for African Union troops in the region. It is remembered for being a key stronghold of al-Shabab Islamists, but the Somali National Army captured it in 2014 with the backing of African Union forces.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. But al-Shabab militants have carried out a string of deadly bombings in the region and elsewhere in the country.
At the beginning of the month, they launched coordinated attacks on five military camps in the region.
Two of the attacks targeted a military camp for African Union peacekeepers in nearby Bula Marer, a town 110 kilometers south of Mogadishu and one of the main towns in the region. This was followed by an al-Shabab infantry attack on the camp. Eight Ugandan soldiers were killed, according to Somali government officials.
Over its 11-year existence, al-Shabab has often moved to shut down non-Islamic schools and replace them with those with a strongly religious curriculum.
The group, which wants to impose a strict version of Sharia in Somalia, has also banned the watching of movies and playing of soccer.