The militant Somali group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing Saturday that killed at least 15 people in western Somalia, near the border with Ethiopia.
An al-Shabab statement said the attack targeted a cafe in the city of Beledweyne where soldiers gathered, and said the dead included Ethiopian and Djibouti troops as well as Somali soldiers.
Somali Prime Minister Abid Farah Shirdon said the attack occurred near a government administrative facility, and that local intellectuals and civic groups had met nearby for the past week to debate the future of the targeted Hiiraan district. He did not provide an exact death toll, which militants placed at 25.
Beledweyne official Bashir Hussein Dhoor told VOA's Somali service that at least seven civilians were among the dead.
The attack came four weeks after a sweeping Shabab attack on a shopping mall in the Kenyan capital, which killed nearly 70 people and brought international attention and widespread condemnation to the militant group.
Al-Shabab rose to regional prominence as a nationalist movement fighting the 2006 U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. The group eventually controlled large parts of the country, until driven into the countryside by the African-Union-led peacekeeping force AMISOM in 2011 and 2012.
Earlier this month, the United Nations said more military force was needed to push the militants from their remaining rural strongholds.