At least 13 killed by a suicide attack. The blast caused ‘huge damage’ in a restaurant filled with politicians and government officials, police said.

At least 13 people were killed in central Somalia in a suicide attack on Saturday after a suicide bomber detonated explosives in a restaurant packed with local officials and politicians.

The dead were mostly civilians and 20 other people were wounded in the town of Beledweyne, police spokesman Dini Roble Ahmed said. The blast caused “huge damage”, he added.

One witness in Beledweyne said he helped to evacuate the wounded after the mid-morning attack.

“I counted seven dead, including soldiers and civilians, and over 10 injured,” said Aden Farah, a local elder.

Police and government officials confirmed the restaurant attack was the result of a suicide bomber but did not give the number of casualties.

Series of attacks

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a report by SITE intelligence, which monitors armed groups online.

The group, which frequently attacks government targets and civilians, has unleashed two attacks in the past two weeks. Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab aims to topple the central government.

One of those killed in the attack in Beledweyne was a candidate in an ongoing parliamentary election, residents said.

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The parliamentary elections began on November 1 and were initially supposed to end on December 24, but are currently due to be completed on February 25.

Under Somalia’s indirect electoral process, delegates, who include clan elders, pick members of the lower house, which will then choose a new president at a date yet to be fixed.

The recent attacks by al-Shabab could present more problems for the election, which has been delayed by a year.

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