By Abdi Guled
MOGADISHU, SOMALIA: A suicide bomber detonated explosives inside a small but crowded restaurant in a city north of the capital Saturday, killing himself and at least 12 others, police said.
Mohamed Abdi, a senior Somali police official, said the attack in the city of Beledweyne, about 200 miles north of Mogadishu, also wounded at least 10 others.
Many of those killed or wounded are civilians, he said, though some of the victims may also be government soldiers.
The attacker walked into the restaurant and took a seat among diners before setting off the explosives tied around his waist, one witness said.
“He sat among the diners then blew himself up there,” Mohamed Ulusow, a Beledweyne resident said by phone. “Pieces of human flesh were scattered there and the blast has largely ripped off the restaurant’s roof.”
Somalia’s president condemned the attack and blamed it on al-Qaida-linked extremist group al-Shabab.
“Their cowardly attack is aimed at stopping the social and economic developments of the people in the town,” President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said in a statement after the attack.
“That attack is a sign that al-Shabab were defeated in the battlefield and have nothing else to attack except the civilians.”
Beledweyne is under the control of the central government and African Union peacekeepers from Djibouti are stationed there.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but al-Shabab militants frequently stage such attacks on seats of power as well as restaurants and other public places that are popular with foreigners and government soldiers.
Al-Shabab, which seeks political control of Somalia, has said it wants all foreign peacekeepers to leave the country, the reason it has launched lethal attacks in East African countries such as Kenya and Uganda, which both have sent peacekeepers to support Somalia’s central government.
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for a deadly attack last month on an upscale mall in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
Al-Shabab said the Sept. 21 attack, in which scores were killed in a four-day siege of the Westgate shopping mall, was in retaliation for Kenya sending troops into Somalia to go after the extremists.