At least four Somali government soldiers have been killed and six wounded by a suicide bomber who attacked a tea restaurant in the divided town of Galkayo in central Somalia, witnesses and officials said Saturday. The attack happened on the northern side of the town controlled by the Puntland semi-autonomous region.
"A young man wearing a suicide vest rushed toward the restaurant where government security officials and their guards gathered and blew himself up," a witnesses told VOA.
Government officials in the region have confirmed that two senior military commanders were among those killed in the attack.
Col. Abdi Hukun Abdullahi Mohamed, the commander of the town's security patrol teams, senior Somali military official Abdikani Ahmed Geyre, another army colonel and one of their guards died in the attack, Somali security officials told VOA.
Galkayo is the provincial capital of the divided Mudug region of Somalia. The northern part of the town is controlled by the Puntland regional state, while the south is controlled by Galmudug regional state.
No one claimed immediate responsibility for the attack, but it had the hallmarks of an al-Shabab strike. That militant group has attacked dozens of government buildings, hotels, restaurants and other targets in Mogadishu in recent years.
The town's mayor, Hirsi Yusuf Barre, told reporters they are investigating the attack.
The commanders targeted in this latest attack were in charge of hundreds of military officers from Galmudug and Puntland states, and they carry out joint patrols in the divided town as part of a cease-fire agreement brokered with help of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), United Nations and other partners in 2017.
Somalia has been gripped by conflict since the downfall of Mohamed Siad Barre in early 1991, when repeated and deadly inter-clan fighting claimed the lives of many innocent civilians. But for the major cities, including capital city, Mogadishu, the armed al-Shabab group has been one of the main causes of unrest in the past two decades.