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Militant Attacks Kills 22 in Somalia


A Somali security officer walks past a child as he secures the scene of an explosion at a market in Wadajir district in Mogadishu, Somalia, Nov. 26, 2018.

At least 22 people were killed in two separate militant attacks Monday in Somalia, witnesses and officials said.

In the first incident, al-Shabab militants attacked the compound of a controversial cleric in the central Somalia town of Galkayo, killing him and at least 14 other people.

Residents in the town said they woke up Monday to huge explosions, followed by heavy, sustained gunfire at the compound in the southern half of the town.

Witnesses said a car bomb rammed into the gate followed by insurgents who stormed the compound.

The compound has been the headquarters of the Sufi cleric Sheikh Abdiweli Ali Elmi and his congregation.

Al-Shabab accused him of committing blasphemy last year and threatened to kill him after he posted controversial videos on YouTube. Religious leaders criticized him for posting videos that showed the cleric pointing to a picture some thought represented the Prophet Muhammad. He was also condemned for using music in his worship services.

Elmi had denied the blasphemy accusations against him and insisted music is not contrary to Islamic teachings.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for killing the cleric.

Security forces launched an attack on the militants, killing two of them. A third militant reportedly has been apprehended.

Commander of the security forces who fought al-Shabab militants in the compound Abdulaziz Abdullahi Hogolof told journalists that four militants were behind the attack including the driver of the suicide car bomb.

Police say eight people were killed by a car bomb just after mid-day in Mogadishu.

Commissioner of Wadajir district Omar Abdullahi Hassan told VOA that security forces intercepted the car after the driver showed suspicious behavior.

He said the driver was taken away for questioning and the search of the car started when the explosion occurred.

Al-Shabab often takes credit for these types of explosions in Somalia.