US military: Drone strike kills Al-Shabab fighter in Somalia

:: The US military said Monday it carried out a drone strike in Somalia that killed a member of the Al-Shabab extremist group, while a Somali intelligence official said an Al-Shabab leader was targeted but it was not clear whether he had been killed.

A statement from the US Africa Command said the airstrike occurred on Saturday near Tortoroow, an Al-Shabab stronghold in Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia. The statement said no civilians were killed.

US President Donald Trump earlier this year approved expanded military operations against the Al-Qaeda linked extremists, including more aggressive airstrikes and considering parts of southern Somalia areas of active hostilities.

The US statement said the airstrike was carried out in coordination with regional partners “as a direct response to Al-Shabab actions, including recent attacks on Somali forces.”

The Somali intelligence official identified the targeted Al-Shabab leader as Ali Mohamed Hussein, who has served as the extremist group’s shadow governor for Mogadishu and has been one of the group’s most outspoken officials.

The official said at least one missile struck a car in which the Al-Shabab leader was traveling near Tortoroow. One person was killed, said the official.

The US military in early July said it carried out an airstrike against Al-Shabab in Somalia and was assessing the results.

The airstrike followed one in June that the US said killed eight extremists at a rebel command and logistics camp in the south.

Al-Shabab earlier this month mocked Trump for the first time in a video that called him a “brainless billionaire.”

The extremist group also has vowed to step up attacks in Somalia after the president elected in February declared a new offensive against Al-Shabab, which continues to carry out deadly attacks in Mogadishu.

The extremist group also has carried out deadly attacks in neighboring countries, notably Kenya, calling it retribution for sending troops to Somalia to fight Al-Shabab.

Uganda’s military, meanwhile, said it had lost 12 soldiers in an attack claimed by Al-Shabab extremists in southern Somalia.

They ambushed Ugandan troops that are part of an African Union force as they patrolled a supply route in the hotly-contested Lower Shebelle region, the military said in a statement.

“From the battlefield, it is now confirmed that UPDF lost 12 gallant soldiers with seven sustaining injuries,” the statement from the Uganda Peoples’ Defense Forces said.

Witnesses told AFP the attack occurred in the village of Golweyn, some 120 km from Mogadishu.

The AU mission AMISOM said an improvised explosive device (IED) was used in an ambush of a convoy composed of its troops and Somali forces.

“A lot of damage was inflicted on the enemy while our troops took fatalities whose number is yet to be ascertained,” the mission said on Twitter.

An Al-Shabab spokesman on Sunday told a radio station linked to the group that the insurgents had killed 39 soldiers, a claim that could not be independently verified.

The AU has a 22,000-strong force in the country dedicated to fighting Al-Shabab and supporting the internationally backed government.

Al-Shabab has fought governments in Mogadishu for years and has also carried out attacks in Kenya and Uganda.

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