US kills 17 Al Shabab militants in Somalia strike

'Self-defence strike' came days after Al Shabab killed five soldiers in the capital, Mogadishu

Al Shabab fighters outside Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, in 2008.  AP
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The US says it killed 17 members of Al Shabab in a strike in Somalia on Wednesday.

American forces conducted a "self-defence strike" at the request of the Somali government, who came under attack from the terrorist group, according to a statement on Friday by the US Africa Command.

It labelled the group "the largest and most deadly Al Qaeda network in the world".

The strike came days after Al Shabab killed five soldiers in the capital, Mogadishu, and just over a week after a deadly car bombing that caused more than 100 fatalities.

On Wednesday, the Somali army said it had killed at least 20 militants and took back Al Shabab-controlled towns in central Somalia in its latest offensive against the group.

Federal forces launched a new campaign in August with support from the US and local clan militias.

On November 1, the US imposed sanctions on ISIS in Somalia and other actors it said had sold weapons to Al Shabab. It has targeted fighters of the group in numerous air strikes in recent months.

US President Joe Biden authorised the redeployment of US troops to the country in May, 17 months after his predecessor Donald Trump withdrew forces.

Officials said the decision was made in light of increased Al Shabab attacks, including an attack in Kenya in 2020 that killed three Americans.

The Al Qaeda-affiliated group has waged a decades-long insurgency against the federal government, which it hopes to overthrow and replace with a strict Shariah-based system.

Al Shabab controls a significant amount of territory, mostly in southern Somalia, and has thrived in part because of the country's fractious and dysfunctional politics. It regularly carries out attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere in the country, and has killed tens of thousands of people.

Updated: November 11, 2022, 10:52 AM