Somalia: Al-Shabaab Militants Kill 15 in Attack on Religious Center

Photo: UN Somalia
Violent extremists have carried out bombings in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on various occasions. Shown here is the aftermath of a car bomb attack on the city's Banadir Beach hotel on 25 August 2016.

Al-Shabab militants have attacked the compound of a controversial cleric in the central Somalia town of Galkayo, killing him and at least 14 other people, officials and witnesses said.

Residents in the town said they woke up Monday to huge explosions followed by heavy, sustained gunfire at the compound in the southern half of the town.

Witnesses said that at around 6 a.m. local time, a car bomb rammed into the gate followed by suicide infantry who stormed the compound.

The compound has been the headquarters of the Sufi cleric Sheikh Abdiweli Ali Elmi and his congregation.

Al-Shabab accused him of committing blasphemy last year and threatened to kill him after he posted controversial videos on YouTube. Religious leaders criticized him for posting videos that showed the cleric pointing to a picture some thought represented the Prophet Muhammad. He was also condemned for using music in his worship services.

Elmi had denied the blasphemy accusations against him and insisted music is not contrary to Islamic teachings.

Via an affiliate website, the al-Shabab militant group claimed responsibility for killing the cleric.

Security forces have launched an attack on the militants, killing two. A third militant reportedly has been apprehended.

A journalist at the scene said security forces have taken control of the compound and have been collecting the bodies.

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