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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

US strikes ISIL in Somalia for first time

The strikes occurred in northeastern Somalia and killed 'several terrorists', the US military's Africa Command said in a statement

A Somali woman looks out from an opening in a wall on a beach in Mogadishu, Somalia, October 25, 2017. Marius Bosch / Reuters
A Somali woman looks out from an opening in a wall on a beach in Mogadishu, Somalia, October 25, 2017. Marius Bosch / Reuters

The US conducted a pair of drone strikes against ISIL fighters in Somalia on Friday, the first time America has hit the extremists in the Horn of Africa nation, officials said.

The strikes occurred in northeastern Somalia and killed "several terrorists", the US military's Africa Command said in a statement.

According to Voice of America, which cited the chairman of the town of Qandala in the semiautonomous region of Puntland, six missiles hit an ISIL base in Buqa village, 60 kilometres away.

"Local residents and pastoralists were shocked and fled from the area," Jama Mohammed Qurshe told VOA.

AFRICOM spokesman Lieutenant Commander Anthony Falvo said no civilians were in the vicinity of the strikes.

"They struck their intended targets," he told AFP, noting these were the first anti-ISIL air strikes in Somalia.

The first strike occurred around midnight Somalia time with the second strike coming at about 11am.

In recent months, the US has repeatedly hit Somali extremists from the Shabaab rebel group that is aligned with Al Qaeda, but Friday's development marks a significant step in the ever-evolving war against ISIL.

"US forces will continue to use all authorised and appropriate measures to protect Americans and to disable terrorist threats," AFRICOM said.

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ISIL claimed its first suicide attack in Somalia in May, killing at least five people as it stepped up activities in a region dominated by the Shabaab.

The militants are led by former Shabaab cleric Abdiqadir Mumin, who switched allegiance from Al Qaeda to ISIL in October 2015 and was named a "global terrorist" by the US State Department in August.

Mumin was born in Puntland and lived in Sweden before moving to the UK in the 2000s, where he was granted British citizenship.