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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

US confirms airstrike killed Al Shabab commander in Somalia

A US Africa Command statement said the strike on July 30 killed Ali Mohamed Hussein, also known as Ali Jabal, who was said to be planning and executing attacks against Mogadishu. .

Civilians run from the scene of an explosion in Maka al Mukaram road in Mogadishu, Somalia, July 30, 2017 - the day on which the US military said it killed Ali Mohamed Hussein,  a senior Al Shabab commander in a drone air strike. Feisal Omar / Reuters
Civilians run from the scene of an explosion in Maka al Mukaram road in Mogadishu, Somalia, July 30, 2017 - the day on which the US military said it killed Ali Mohamed Hussein, a senior Al Shabab commander in a drone air strike. Feisal Omar / Reuters

The US military on Friday confirmed it killed a high-level commander of the Al Shabab extremist group with an airstrike in Somalia, targeting a man blamed for planning deadly attacks in the Somali capital.

A statement from US Africa Command said the strike on July 30 killed Ali Mohamed Hussein, also known as Ali Jabal. The statement said he was "was responsible for leading Al Shabab forces operating in the Mogadishu and Banadiir regions and in planning and executing attacks against the capital of Mogadishu."

Hours after the announcement, at least two people were killed in an apparent car bomb blast on a major street in Somalia's capital. The exact target was not clear and there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The US statement said Ali also had served as Al Shabab's shadow governor for Mogadishu and had been one of the group's most outspoken officials.

He was killed by a drone strike near Tortoroow, an Al Shabab stronghold in Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia "as a direct response to Al Shabab actions, including recent attacks on Somali forces." It said no civilians were killed in the strike.

President Donald Trump earlier this year approved expanded military operations against Al Shabab, which is linked to Al Qaeda and is the deadliest extremist group in Africa.The expanded measures include more aggressive airstrikes and treating parts of southern Somalia as areas of active hostilities.

Al Shabab often carries out deadly attacks on high-profile targets in Mogadishu, including Somali military and African Union checkpoints and facilities, hotels and the area around the presidential palace.

The killing of Ali "disrupts Al Shabab's ability to plan and conduct attacks in Mogadishu and coordinate efforts between Al Shabab regional commanders," said US Africa Command.

The US has carried out a handful of airstrikes since President Trump's expansion of military efforts. In early July it carried out an airstrike against Al Shabab in Somalia but gave few details. That airstrike followed one in June that the US said killed eight extremists at a rebel command and logistics camp in the south.

The Somalia-based extremists recently mocked Mr Trump in a video that called him a "brainless billionaire." They have also vowed to step up attacks in Somalia after the president elected in February declared a new offensive against Al Shabab.

The extremist group has also carried out deadly attacks in neighbouring countries, notably Kenya, calling it retribution for Kenyan troops being sent to Somalia to fight against Al Shabab.