Mogadishu (Reuters) – At least 13 people were killed in the central Somali town of Beledweyne on Saturday, state television said, after a suicide bomber blew themselves up in a restaurant that witnesses said was packed with local officials and politicians.
The al Shabaab militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a report by SITE intelligence, which monitors militants groups online.
The hard-line Islamist group, which frequently attacks government targets and civilians, has unleashed two attacks in the past two weeks.
A further 18 people were injured in the Beledweyne attack, the Somali National Television said on Twitter.
One witness in Beledweyne said he helped to evacuate the injured after the mid-morning attack.
“I counted seven dead, including soldiers and civilians, and over ten injured,” Aden Farah, a local elder, told Reuters.
Police and government officials confirmed the restaurant attack was the result of a suicide bomb but did not give the number of casualties.
One of those killed in the attack in Beledweyne was a candidate in an ongoing parliamentary election, residents said.
The parliamentary elections began on Nov. 1 and were initially supposed to end on Dec. 24, but are currently due to be completed on Feb. 25.
Under Somalia’s indirect electoral process, delegates, who include clan elders, pick members of the lower house, who will then choose a new president at a date yet to be fixed.
The recent attacks by al Shabaab could present more problems for the election, which has been delayed by a year.
Al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab aims to topple the central government and impose its own severe interpretation of Islamic law.