U.S. air strike targets al-Shabaab leader in Somalia

Photo: U.S. air strike targets al-Shabaab leader in Somalia / Arabic region

A U.S. air strike was carried out in Somalia on Sunday, with a military official saying the attack targeted a suspected militant leader with ties to al-Qaeda and al-Shabaab Al Arabiya reported.

Speaking on condition of anonymity to Reuters news agency, the official said the strike took place in southern Somalia. The source did not reveal the identity of the suspect or whether the strike was believed to have been successful.

The U.S. has come under heavy criticism from rights groups in recent years for its surge in drone strikes on Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen primarily. The rights groups condemn the high civilian casualty count that results after U.S. forces target militant suspects.

Somalia has been on the radar in recent years following the strong emergence of the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab militants. Al-Shabaab has been weakened by African Union troops over the past two years, ushering in some stability in many parts of the Horn of Africa country after a campaign of cross-border raids and kidnappings of Westerners and security forces.

Following Sunday's attack, another U.S. official, also speaking on condition of anonymity to Reuters, said the operation took place in a remote area near Barawe, Somalia.

Barawe, a militant stronghold on Somalia's southern coast, was the site of a failed raid by American commandos in October targeting a militant known as Ikrima.

The U.S. forces pulled out after a gun battle without capturing Ikrima, described as a planner and operator who has relentlessly plotted attacks on neighboring Kenya.

Late last year, the U.S. military deepened its involvement in Somalia, establishing a unit of fewer than five troops in the capital, Mogadishu, to help advise and support African Union and Somali forces.

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