Blast was an accident, says Somali PM

By Mohamed Ali Bile

Mogadishu - An explosion killed at least seven people at a soccer stadium on Tuesday, moments after the Somali prime minister had addressed hundreds of supporters, government officials and witnesses said.

Somali Prime Minister Ali Gedi, who escaped unhurt, told reporters that the blast appeared to have been an accident. A security official said a militiaman guarding Gedi had detonated one of his grenades.

"I am very sorry for what happened at the stadium. It is an unexpected accident and I send condolences to the relatives," Gedi said.

Gedi flew here on Friday for the first time since his appointment in 2004, seeking to end a rift in his government over the location of a future capital and the role of United Nations peacekeepers in the Horn of Africa country of about 10 million people.

Lawlessness has continued to plague this city despite the formation of President Abdullahi Yusuf's Transitional Federal Government in Kenya in 2004 - the 14th attempt at government in nearly as many years.

Colonel Abdi Hassan Awale, the police chief in the previous government who is working with Gedi's security officials, said seven people were killed in the blast.

Witnesses and hospital officials said three others died on their way to or at the hospital and another was killed by a vehicle leaving the scene.

Awale said a militiaman hired to protect Gedi's entourage appeared to have been responsible for the blast.

"It was an accident that happened after one of the private militiamen's grenades exploded," Awale said.

Witnesses said the blast tore through a stadium wall and left blood everywhere. Officials at four hospitals said a total of 57 were wounded.

The statements by Gedi and Awale conflicted with that made by one of the prime minister's senior aides in Nairobi.

"As far as we are concerned it was a bomb. Nobody knows who did it, the reason or motivation behind it," political adviser Abdurahman Ali Osman said.

"It was not an attack on the prime minister. It is just instigators who would like to see the instability of Somalia."

The government has come under growing pressure from foreign governments and donors to return home, although the country is still a patchwork fiefdoms run by rival warlords.

The lack of safety here has been the main argument made by Gedi and his parliamentary allies against moving the government back to the capital.

Gedi and deputies aligned with him would prefer to first relocate from Nairobi to the relatively safer Somali cities of Jowhar and Baidoa.

But others, including influential warlords in the government, insist the administration must return here, Somalia's single most dangerous place. The transitional constitution stipulates that it must be the capital.

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