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Somalia's PM escapes deadly blast

A bomb exploded in Mogadishu's soccer stadium Tuesday just as the new prime minister began to address a rally intended to build support for his exiled government, leaving at least one person dead.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Somalia’s prime minister escaped unharmed in a blast Tuesday that sent panicked supporters at a rally rushing out of Mogadishu’s stadium, leaving at least 10 people dead and 60 injured.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether most of the casualties were from the blast or the stampede that followed.

Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi said the explosion was an accident, but investigators said they were still looking into the cause and whether anybody was behind the blast, which underlined the security fears that have kept the nation’s government in exile.

Gedi, who was on his first trip home since he took office last year, pledged the explosion “will not deter us and the international community from continuing our common endeavor to relocating the government back to Somalia.”

The government has sat in Kenya since it was formed in 2004 and is opposed by Islamic extremists and some of the country’s dozens of warlords. Somalia has been without a central government since 1991, when clan-based warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, then turned their weapons on each other.

Tuesday’s blast happened about 10 yards from Gedi, according to Deputy Parliament Speaker Ismail Ilmi Boqore.

Boqore, who was with Gedi at the time, told The Associated Press that the other diplomats or government officials at the rally weren’t harmed.

Col. Abdi Hassan Awale initially said at least seven were killed as people panicked and rushed out of the stadium, with some jumping over the walls in what he called “a virtual stampede.”

Three other people died in Medina Hospital after they were brought from the stadium with injuries, said the hospital’s Dr. Abdi Ibrahim Jiya.

A survey of Mogadishu hospitals put the number of injured at 60 people.

“We are still investigating what caused the explosion, who was behind it and the exact number of the casualties of the day,” Awale said.

Hundreds of people had gathered in the stadium to hear Gedi.

Gedi arrived Friday in Somalia and was cheered by hundreds of people at the airport, where members of Somalia’s former military formed a guard of honor for him. Trumpets sounded and the Somali national anthem played.

President Abdulahi Yusuf Ahmed has called on the African Union to send 20,000 peacekeepers to secure Somalia, guarantee the new government’s safety and disarm the militias that roam the country with impunity. So far the African Union has offered to send only a few thousand troops.