Al-Shabaab gunmen attacked a religious centre in central Somalia on Monday, killing a cleric and 10 of his followers, according to a spokesperson for the militant Islamist group.
“A car bomb rammed into the centre of the man who insulted the prophet. Our militants are now inside and fighting goes on,” says Al-Shabaab spokesperson Abdiasis Abu Musab.
He later said the cleric, Abdiweli, was killed in the attack along with 10 of his followers. The casualties could not be independently confirmed.
Residents of Galkayo, where the centre is located and a regional official said Abdiweli may have been targeted because his centre hosts mostly youths who play music and dance.
Al-Shabaab said last year the cleric had referred to himself as the Prophet, an accusation denied at the time by Abdiweli.
“We cannot know the figure of casualties right now. Al-Shabaab had threatened him many times,” says Abdirashid Hashi, the governor of Mudug region.
Al Shabaab is fighting to topple the Somali government and establish its own rule based on its harsh interpretation of Islamic law. The group controls small sections on Mudug region but it does not include Galkayo.