The Ethiopian government has revealed that two Somali suicide bombers who had planned to kill football fan during Sunday’s World Cup qualification match between Ethiopia and Nigeria accidentally blew themselves up before carrying out the attack instead.
The accidental explosion reportedly happened in the Bole district of Addis Ababa, an upscale neighbourhood about 5km from the stadium where the match was played before a sell out audience.
“They were Somali nationals and plotted to carry out a suicide attack disguised as fans on either the stadium or areas where large crowds gathered to watch the game,” government spokesman Shimeles Kemal said.
Explosives, arms, hand grenades and football shirts were found at the scene of the blast, at a residential address an hour before kick-off, Shimeles said. Three suspects were detained. The Bole district has a small Somali refugee community.
“Heavy police presence must have caused their nervousness and state of agitation which led to the detonation that caused their own death,” Shimeles said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but suspicion immediately fell on Somalia’s al Shabaab Islamist rebels who have vowed to exact revenge on Ethiopia for sending troops to Somalia to fight the al Qaeda-linked militants, alongside African Union forces from Uganda, Burundi and Kenya.
Ethiopia government says it has thwarted attacks over the past two years which it has blamed on domestic rebel groups as well as the Somali insurgents.
Fortunately, Ethiopia has not experienced the sorts of attacks that have occurred in neighbouring countries – such as the siege at the Nairobi mall last month and an attack on football fans in Uganda in 2010.