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Somali suicide bomber kills at least seven

At least seven people have been killed in the central Somali town of Beledweyne after a suicide bomber blew themselves up in a restaurant packed with local officials and politicians, witnesses said.

The al-Shabab extremist group has claimed responsibility, The Associated Press (AP) is reporting.

The group, which frequently attacks government targets and civilians, has unleashed two attacks in the past two weeks.

One witness in Beledweyne said at least seven people had been killed in the mid-morning attack.

“I counted seven dead, including soldiers and civilians, and over ten injured. I was among the people who took the casualties to hospital,” Aden Farah, a local elder, told Reuters.

Other news agencies, including AP, are reporting at least twice as many deaths, with another 20 injured.

DPA has quoted a senior regional police officer as saying the suicide bomber was female.

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 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, 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.

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