MOGADISHU, Somalia — Masked gunmen stormed a mosque Wednesday in western Somalia, killing at least five Pakistani Muslim clerics in a country already bloodied by an Islamic insurgency and where al-Qaida is believed to be gaining a foothold.
The victims belonged to the Islamic missionary movement Tablighi Jamaat, Pakistan's foreign office spokesman Abdul Basit said in Islamabad. Some extremists, including shoe bomber Richard Reid, have been linked to the group, but Tablighi Jamaat is believed to be apolitical and nonviolent. Some of its members travel the world, preaching to fellow Muslims.
Police surrounded the Tawfiq Mosque after the attack in town of Galkayo, 470 miles northwest of the capital, Mogadishu, and said they were searching for suspects. No one immediately claimed responsibility.
The gunmen entered the mosque after dawn prayers, forced six Pakistani preachers and a Somali man out, and opened fire, said Ismail Mohamud Hassan, a witness.
"Five of them died on the spot," Hassan said in a telephone interview. "Two others were injured — one Pakistani and a Somali."