Somalia: Mortar shells fired at Mogadishu stadium hours after being reopened by Farmajo
MOGADISHU, Somalia - At least three mortar shells were fired at the newly launched Mogadishu stadium, police officers said, just hours after President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo toured the structure, which was initiated ostensibly to uplift the social activities in Somalia, following years of turmoil.
The incident just came moments after a football match between Horseed and MCC FalC. The former was celebrating victory when one of the mortar shells hit within the stadium, forcing dozens of supporters and players to scamper for their safety.
Footages taken prior to the incident showed players from Horseed and their technical team being interviewed, before the mortar shell struct the ground, abruptly ending the interview which was just ongoing within the 35,000-seater stadium.
Ahmed Muse, a police Colonel, said two other mortar shells hit the stadium from outside but the impact was not immediately established. The stadium is fitted with floodlights hence games can be played comfortably at night.
"We heard explosions within an outside the stadium and we're currently assessing the damage," he told reporters. "It's quite unfortunate that they attacked just after it was launched, this intolerance is completely unacceptable."
The stadium had been turned into a military base following decades of conflict and at one point, it hosted the African Union Mission troops in Somalia along with a contingent of the Somali National Army [SNA]
Somalia-based militants; the Al-Shabaab, is associated with such attacks but they're yet to take responsibility. They've lately targeted the capital using mortar shells in recent months, with the Halane Base Camp, which hosts AU forces, being constantly under attack.
It's not clear how many people were injured following the unfortunate incident but sections of the stadium's interior were destroyed including the artificial grass, which was completely dismembered from sections of the pitch.
Donned in navy-blue tracksuits, the color of Somalia flag, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo opened the stadium, an event which was graced by dozens of Somalis and senior government officials in Mogadishu.
On his Twitter, Farmajo, who first launched the refurbishment in 2017 when he came into office, hailed the Somali people and international partners for their "sweat" and "sacrifice" which led to the restoration of the stadium after decades of civil war.
"When I Last visited our ruined historic Stadium Mogadishu; the words 'Dal waliba dadkiisa dhisaa [“Every nation is built by its people”]' written, instilled hopes and belief in our Somali spirit to revive it," he said. "We are all very proud to see Mogadishu Stadium restored by the sweat and sacrifice of our people and partners."
Apart from domestic revenue, the project was heavily funded by the international community, among them the United States and European Union, who are key stakeholders in the peacebuilding processes in the Horn of Africa nation.
The attack came a day before the 60th independence celebrations which are being held today in Somalia. Recently, Somalia also unveiled the national theatre, another significant milestone in rebuilding the country, whose future is still uncertain due to persistent political wrangles.
Al-Shabaab militants were flushed out of the capital following a joint operation by SNA and AMISOM troops in 2011. However, the militants have been attacking sections of the city, usually targeting security forces and top government officials.