Mogadishu - Somali security forces shot dead four suspected Shabaab insurgents on Thursday, foiling an attack on a political conference in the central town of Adado, officials said.
More than 400 local politicians, leaders and clan elders were meeting in the town to discuss the formation of a regional government when the gunmen tried to storm the building, with one blowing himself up in a bid to breach the gates.
"Four Shabaab militants tried to storm the conference centre in Adado this morning but the security forces stopped them," said security official Mohamed Sugule in the town, some 500km north of the capital Mogadishu.
"One of them detonated himself at the gate to let others make their way into the compound, but all of them have been killed."
Halimo Ismail Yarey, a key organiser of the conference, said all those at the meeting were safe.
The attack comes at the start of Islam's holy month of Ramadan. The al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab have in past years intensified attacks during the month of fasting.
Somali government and African Union troops from Ethiopia were providing security for the conference, which began in early May. Leaders are discussing ways to establish an administration within the framework of Somalia's federal system.
The Shabaab, who are fighting to overthrow the country's internationally-backed government, warned participants they would be attacked.
Somali government soldiers and troops with the AU force face frequent bomb attacks and ambushes launched by the Shabaab Islamists.