United States airstrike kills 35 al-Shabab militants in central Somalia

Somali forces stand guard outside a hotel near the presidential palace in Mogadishu last year after a Shabaab attack. AFP  File  Mohamed ABDIWAHAB

Somali forces stand guard outside a hotel near the presidential palace in Mogadishu last year after a Shabaab attack. AFP File Mohamed ABDIWAHAB

The United States military says it has killed 35 fighters from the al-Shabab extremist group with an airstrike in central Somalia, not far from the Ethiopian border. The group had recently claimed responsibility for a vehicle bomb in Mogadishu.

In a statement, U.S. Africa Command said the strike took place on Sunday near Beledweyne, Hiran Region in Somalia.

"We continue to support our Somali partners, especially when their operations provide us opportunities to take the fight to Al Shabaab as an element of our partnered strategy", Gen. Gregg Olson, operations director of AFRICOM, said in a statement. The militants are allied with the global al Qaeda group.

Shabaab fighters were pushed out of Somalia's capital in 2011, and subsequently from other towns and cities, by African Union troops.

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It has continued to launch attacks across Somalia, including this month's vehicle bombing which claimed 11 lives at a Mogadishu market.

The Pentagon has increased the rate of strikes in Somalia in recent years, partly because President Donald Trump loosened constraints on when the U.S. military can take action against alleged terrorists.

In one strike last month, Africa Command said it killed 52 Somali militants. He also called on Somalian army to boost its own efforts.

US forces are partnering African Union troops (AMISOM) and the Somali National Security Forces in combined counterterrorism operations in the troubled East African nation.

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