The Mogadishu neighborhood is dominated by members of the country's two main militant Islamist groups, al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam. Witnesses say a high-ranking member of al-Shabab, Fuad Mohamed Qalaf, was inside the mosque at the time of the bombings.
Two explosions inside of a crowded mosque in Mogadishu, Somalia have killed at least 30 people and wounded up to 70 others. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. Michael Onyiego reports from the VOA East Africa Bureau in Nairobi.
The bombings took place in the Abdala Shideye Mosque, located in the bustling Bakara Market in the Somali capital, as people gathered for their noon prayers on Saturday. In addition to the dead, it is being reported that dozens of other people have been injured by the blasts.
According to witnesses, a high ranking member of al-Shabab, an Islamist insurgent group with ties to al-Qaida, was the target of the attack. Fuad Mohamed Qalaf, also known as Fuad Shongole, was reportedly inside the mosque as the bombs went off.
The Bakara Market is a stronghold for Somalia's insurgent militias. The area is controlled by al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam, another Islamist group loosely affiliated with al-Shabab, and Qalaf regularly uses the Abdala Shideye Mosque to deliver messages from insurgent militia to the Somali people.
The director of Mogadishu's ambulance service, Ali Muse, called the explosion in the mosque unprecedented. Muse said that the number of casualties is sure to increase as the full extent of the damage is revealed.
The attack highlights the increasingly violent reality of life in Somalia. It was a major attack inside a house of worship in the country and the majority of the victims were civilians.
Bombings have become increasingly frequent in Mogadishu and last week, a landmine caused casualties outside of another mosque in the Bakara Market.
Somalia has not had a functioning government for the past 20 years. The United Nations backed Transitional Federal Government has struggled to impose order, but it controls only parts of the capital. Al-Shabab has been fighting the government since 2007 to impose Islamic law and controls over vast swaths of Somalia.
On news of today, witnesses say an explosion at a mosque in southern Somalia has killed at least one person and wounded 10 others.
Worshippers attending evening prayers inside the Gulwade mosque in the rebel-held port city of Kismayo said Sunday that a hand grenade may have been thrown into the building.
No one has claimed responsibility for the incident, the third mosque attack in Somalia within a week.
It is not known if Qalaf, also the target of international sanctions, was hurt in the blast. Al-Shabab militants arrived after the explosions and blocked access to the area. A land mine explosion near a third mosque last week killed one person.
Al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam have been fighting the fragile Somali government for three years and control large parts of southern and central Somalia and portions of Mogadishu.
The two Islamist groups, fighting to impose a strict form of sharia, or Islamic law, on the country, were once allies but broke apart last year in a dispute over Kismayo