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Cleric, 14 others killed in Somalia car bomb and gun attack
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Cleric, 14 others killed in Somalia car bomb and gun attack

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Al Shabaab gunmen and a suicide car bomber struck a religious center in central Somalia on Monday, killing a cleric and at least 14 of his followers, a police officer said

The Islamist militant group had accused the cleric of insulting Prophet Mohamed, which he denied.

The group was forced from Mogadishu in 2011 and most towns and cities but it retains a strong presence outside the capital and launches frequent bombings and other attacks in a campaign to topple the federal government.

“The (security) operation is now over. Al Shabaab killed 15 people including the cleric, his wife, his followers and his guards,” Captain Nur Mohamed, a police officer, told Reuters from Galkayo by phone.

“Three militants who stormed the center were also shot dead.”

The group took responsibility for the attack and put the number of dead at 26. It said some soldiers who responded to the first attack also died as they tried to remove a second car bomb.

“We killed 26 people including the owner of the center, his followers, his bodyguards and soldiers,” Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military operation spokesman, said.

“The owner of the center was the man who abused the prophet. The soldiers that died tried to drive a second car bomb that was left by the armed Mujahideen.”

Residents of Galkayo and a regional official said Abdiweli may have also been targeted because his center hosts mostly youths who play music and dance.

Al Shabaab said last year the cleric had insulted the Prophet, an accusation denied at the time by Abdiweli.

Abdirashid Hashi, the governor of Mudug region, told Reuters that al Shabaab had threatened Abdiweli on numerous occasions.

An elder in Galkayo said Abdiweli had provided free boarding to former pirates, street boys and jobless men and they became his followers.

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