Mogadishu, Oct 19: The radical Islamist group Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that killed at least 12 people and injured 15 others in a Somali town Saturday.
A pro-Islamist website quoted an Al-Shabaab commander as saying that an Islamist fighter launched “a martyrdom operation” at a restaurant in Beledweyne town where Ethiopian and Djiboutian troops were staying, Xinhua reported.
The group, linked to Al Qaeda, claimed the attack killed more than 30 security forces including Ethiopian, Djiboutian and Somali troops, a claim vehemently denied by the Somali government.
Officials said most of those killed or injured in the attack were “innocent civilians” at the cafe.
The Somali government officially confirmed the death of “more than 10 people” in the blast near the local administration centre in Beledweyne town, provincial capital of Hiran region.
Somali Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon strongly condemned the attack, saying the aim was to intimidate people of the region.
“The aim of the attackers is to intimidate the Somali people who want to determine their future, but the people will not go back,” the prime minister said.
In a statement, Shirdon’s office said consultations have been underway in the town on the future administration for Hiran.
“The explosion killed 12 people and more than 15 were injured some of the severely after the suicide bomber detonated his explosives in the middle of the people,” said Harun Afey, a police officer in Beledweyne.
Residents say the blast hit the eatery popular with local residents and civil servants.
Beledweyne, 300 km north of the Somali capital Mogadishu, is under the control of Somali government forces backed by African Union peacekeeping troops from Djibouti.
The town is a commercial hub that connects southern and northern Somalia and is at the border between Somalia and Ethiopia.
The town had been under the control of Al-Shabaab for several years before they were ousted in 2012.