At least six people, including three members of parliament, have been killed in a suicide attack in central Somalia, authorities in the town of Dhuusa Marreeb have said.
The suicide attack on Tuesday targeted a hotel cafe where government and military officials were meeting,
“The explosion hit a hotel in the town and it killed several people, many others were also injured,” said Mohamed Abudlahi Moalim, a senior commander with the Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa militia, which controls the area.
Parliamentarian Dahir Amin Jesow said several other parliamentarians and military officials were among the wounded, some seriously.
The officials were part of a delegation that recently arrived in the region to help form a local government.
The anti-government group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, and also for a car bomb in the heart of the capital Mogadishu on Tuesday that killed at least one man.
The group said it had killed the man in Mogadishu because he worked for the government.
Most suicide bombings in Somalia are carried out by al-Shabab, which over the last year has faced increasing military pressure from African Union troops in the capital, as well as Ethiopian troops in the west and Kenyan troops in the south.
The success against al-Shabab has allowed the Mogadishu-based central government to start reaching out to regions outside of Mogadishu, the task the government officials were carrying out during Tuesday’s attack.
Dhuusa Marreeb, which lies about 640km north of Mogadishu, is under the control of a moderate pro-government force.
The Horn of Africa nation has been without a functioning central government since 1991 and has been racked by fighting ever since.
The UN-backed transitional Somali government only controls the capital, Mogadishu.
Last month, African Union troops, which back the government, for the first time deployed to Baidoa, a strategic south-western town, after it was wrested from al-Shabab’s control by Ethiopian troops.
Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, Somalia’s prime minister, said last month that al-Shabab members are fleeing to northern Somalia in the face of the increased military pressure.