US says new airstrike in Somalia kills 'several militants'

US says new airstrike in Somalia kills 'several militants'

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By ABDI GULED
Associated Press

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) - The U.S. military says "several militants" have been killed in an airstrike against al-Shabab in Somalia as the Trump administration increasingly targets what has become the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa.

The airstrike was carried out Thursday afternoon in the Bay Region, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of the capital, Mogadishu, according to a statement by the U.S. Africa Command. The command did not immediately respond to a question about whether any civilians were killed or injured.

The U.S. has carried out over a dozen drone strikes against the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab this year after the Trump administration approved expanded military efforts against the group. The Long War Journal counts 15 airstrikes against al-Shabab this year.

The U.S. says the latest airstrike, like others, occurred in cooperation with Somalia's government.

Earlier this month the U.S. military carried out its first airstrikes in Somalia against the Islamic State group, which is a small but growing presence in the northern part of the Horn of Africa nation. Many of its fighters are reported to be former al-Shabab members who switched allegiances.

The Somalia-based al-Shabab has been blamed for the massive truck bombing in Mogadishu that killed more than 350 people in the country's worst-ever attack. The extremist group often targets high-profile areas such as hotels in the capital.

While Somalia's president has vowed a "state of war" in response to last month's attack, concern is growing about the gradual security handover that has begun from a 22,000-strong African Union force to Somali national forces.

The AU this week announced the beginning of its withdrawal from the long-chaotic and still heavily fractured nation, saying it will cut 1,000 troops by the end of the year. The AU pullout is set to be complete by the end of 2020.

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