US strike kills 26 Al-Shabaab fighters in Somalia

The strike was triggered after an Al-Shabaab car bomb exploded, killing at least 19 people. (AFP pic)

WASHINGTON: The US military has stepped up its air campaign against Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia in recent days, with officials on Friday saying another 26 “terrorists” had been killed.

The latest air strike, which occurred in the Hiran region of central Somalia on Thursday, came as violence in the capital Mogadishu flared.

According to US Africa Command (AFRICOM), the strike killed 26 “terrorists.”

It did not provide further detail but such strikes are usually conducted by drones.

The strike brings the toll of Al-Shabaab militants killed in recent days to 81, with 20 killed on Feb 25, and another 35 killed a day earlier.

Such strikes “maintain pressure on al-Shabaab and disrupt its planning cycle and degrade its ability to mass forces and coordinate attacks against the Somali people,” AFRICOM’s deputy intelligence director Brigadier General Gregory Hadfield said in a statement.

But on Thursday in Mogadishu, an Al-Shabaab car bomb exploded, killing at least 19 people.

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

The Al-Qaeda-linked group still holds sway in large parts of the countryside even though the US military is supporting local partner forces to fight the jihadists.

Al-Shabaab launches regular gun and bomb attacks on government, military and civilian targets in Mogadishu, as well as ambushes on military convoys and outposts.

In one strike in January, AFRICOM said it killed 52 Somali militants.

Africa Command head General Thomas Waldhauser recently told US lawmakers that air strikes alone would not stop Shabaab, and he called on Somalia’s army to take more responsibility in the fight.