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Suicide bomber hits Somali theater, killing 10

Two weeks ago, Somalia's National Theater reopened for the first time in 20 years for a concert that drew an audience in festive colors in a city trying to rise above war. A welcoming banner proclaimed: "The country is being rebuilt."

Wednesday, the theater was turned into a scene of screams, chaos and blood when a suicide bomber attacked another high-profile event, killing 10 people, wounding dozens and shattering a tentative peace in the capital of Mogadishu.

The blast occurred as Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali stood at the podium to deliver a speech. He was unharmed, said government spokesman Abdirahman Omar Osman, but the president of Somalia's Olympic committee and the head of its soccer federation were among the dead.

The government said a female suicide bomber carried out the attack. The Islamist militant group al-Shabab used its official Twitter feed to claim responsibility for the bombing.

The al-Qaida-linked organization said explosives had been planted in the theater before the event, but an Associated Press journalist at the scene said there was no large blast crater, making a suicide bombing more likely.

"It was a cowardly act, and that will not deter the government from performing its national duties," Osman said. "The prime minister will energize the government to eliminate the terrorists."

Omar Jamal, the charge d'affaires and first secretary of Somalia's mission to the United Nations, said in New York that the bombing was an attempt to assassinate Ali. The prime minister was sitting among a group of officials, and the suicide bomber was in an adjacent row, trying to figure out which one was her target, when Ali got up and went on stage to speak, Jamal added.

"It clearly shows that al-Shabab is still active and a real threat to the lives of government officials," he said.

Fighters belonging to al-Shabab were pushed out of Mogadishu in August by government and African Union troops after two decades of violence that have gripped the Somali capital.

Since then, sports leagues have blossomed, markets have appeared and Western-style restaurants have sprung up. The National Theater was refurbished and reopened with a concert of singing, guitar-playing and drums March 19 that drew hundreds of people and was broadcast live on TV.

Wednesday's ceremony was supposed to be part of that rebirth.