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Somali Olympic chief killed in Mogadishu suicide blast

Updated at 8:30 p.m. ET: The president of Somalia's Olympic committee and the head of the country's soccer federation were among the at least six people killed by a female suicide bomber at Mogadishu's newly reopened national theater Wednesday.

Sports official Shafici Mohyadin said the two were killed when the blast hit the first-anniversary celebration of Somalia's satellite television channel. The officials were Aden Yabarow Wiish, the president of the Somali Olympic Committee, and Said Mohamed Nur, head of the Somali Football Federation.

Al-Shabab insurgents claimed responsibility for the blast in yet another stark reminder of the fragile security in the capital, Mogadishu.

The bombing was an apparent attempt to kill the Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali at the TV celebration.

While the al-Qaida-allied militants pulled their fighters out of the capital last August, they have struck targets regularly in the heart of the coastal city using roadside bombs, mortars and suicide bombers.

A soldier guarding the theater said the bomber had been stopped but the premier's security team had insisted she be allowed in because she was carrying police ID.

"The suicide bomber was a young, slim lady with plaited hair. She wore a veil and carried a police identity card," Mohamed Ali, a soldier, told Reuters.

"She sat under the tree in front of the theater for a while. She stood and went toward the theater when she heard the voice of the PM. We were suspicious and shouted 'stop'. She wanted to target the PM. We stopped her. But the PM's guards inside shouted 'let her come in' because she had a police identity card in her hand. And all of a sudden we heard the explosion."

Ali Muse, the head of Mogadishu's ambulance service, earlier said at least 10 people were killed and dozens wounded, including the country's national planning minister, although the higher death toll could not be verified.

Corpses were strewn across the floor of the theater and some of the dead were still in their seats, a Reuters reporter at the scene said. Ambulance workers collected the bodies and sirens wailed as the wounded were rushed to hospitals.

Al-Shabab said it had targeted government officials and lawmakers with explosives planted ahead of the event, and denied that it had used a suicide bomber.

"We were behind the theater blast. We targeted the infidel ministers and legislators, and they were the casualties of today," Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, the spokesman for al-Shabab's military operations, told Reuters.

In a statement, the White House expressed its condolences to the Somali people Wednesday, adding that the country had "made great strides in the past months to improve security and rebuild Mogadishu after two decades of civil strife." Al-Shabab is an obstacle in the path of this progress, the statement read.

British Prime Minister David Cameron called the bombing "sickening" and acknowledged the "difficult moment" for everyone involved with Somalia's Olympics efforts.

International Olympic Committee said of Wiish and Nur, "Both men were engaged in improving the lives of Somalian people through sport and we strongly condemn such an act of barbarism. Our thoughts are with the Somalian sporting community who lost two great leaders, and with the families of the victims."

Mogadishu's national theater closed during the early 1990s as the city was engulfed by civil war and terrorism. Many saw its re-opening as a symbolic step on the city's road to normality.

Public entertainment, including theater, were frowned upon by the al-Shabab militants forced out of large parts of the city last year.

Directors had planned to use the theater to stage plays reflecting the transition toward peace, which many parts of the country have recently enjoyed.

NBC News, msnbc.com staff and Reuters contributed to this report.

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