The al-Shabab extremist group is warning Somalia's traditional elders against taking part in upcoming elections, saying it will deal with them "with an iron hand."

The 135 elders later this month will begin the selection of 275 members of parliament who would vote in a new president. The political process would result in this Horn of Africa nation having lower and upper houses of parliament for the first time.

Al-Shabab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage made the threat in an audio message posted Tuesday on pro-extremist websites.

Al-Shabab is fighting to impose a strict version of Islam in Somalia, which is trying to recover from decades of violence. The elections are seen as a key step forward.

The impoverished country is set to elect a new president late next month.