A crowd gathers at the site of a suicide attack on Saturday in Beledweyne, Somalia.
PHOTO: AFP/Getty Images
A crowd gathers at the site of a suicide attack on Saturday in Beledweyne, Somalia.

Story highlights

The incident took place in the Somali city of Beledweyne

Soldiers were among the dead, an official said

Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack

(CNN) —  

Soldiers were among the casualties in a suicide attack at a cafe in Somalia early Saturday, authorities told CNN.

The incident occurred in the town of Beledweyne in the central part of the African nation and it drew sharp condemnation from the Somali prime minister.

Authorities continue to sort out the casualty figures. Police officers said the death toll is as high as 20, but the country’s prime minister’s office reported at least 13 dead. A few dozen injuries were reported.

“I condemn the attack in the strongest terms and send my condolences to the families of all the innocent civilians who were killed and wounded,” Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon said.

“The motive of these attacks are to frighten Somali people, these acts of terrorism will not derail the progress made across Somalia.”

Mohamed Ibrahim Ali, a Hirran deputy governor, said seven government soldiers died and top Somali military commanders were injured and hospitalized. He said at least 33 people were injured

Al-Shabaab, the militant Islamist group, issued a claim of responsibility on its website and said it killed Somali and Ethiopian troops, who have been fighting Al-Shabaab.

A terror group with ties to al Qaeda, Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for last month’s four-day siege at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, where at least 67 people died.

Beledweyne is the capital of Hirran province, and the attack took place near the administrative office of the region. The city, more than 200 miles north of Mogadishu and near the Ethiopian border, is a commercial hub linking southern and northern Somalia.

“A process of establishing a regional administration in the area has been under way in the past couple of days,” the prime minister’s office said.

In June 2009, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at the front gate of the Medina Hotel in Beledweyne. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for that assault, which killed 35 people, including several Somalia diplomats.