MOGADISHU, Somalia – The U.S. military on Friday confirmed it killed a high-level commander of the al-Shabab extremist group with an airstrike in Somalia over the weekend, targeting a man blamed for planning deadly attacks in the capital of the Horn of Africa nation.
President Donald Trump earlier this year approved expanded military operations against the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, including more aggressive airstrikes and considering parts of southern Somalia areas of active hostilities. Al-Shabab is the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa.
A U.S. Africa Command statement said the strike on July 30 killed Ali Mohamed Hussein, also known as Ali Jabal. He is the highest-level al-Shabab commander killed this year.
The statement said he was "was responsible for leading al-Shabab forces operating in the Mogadishu and Banadiir regions in planning and executing attacks against the capital of Mogadishu."
Ali also had served as the extremist group's shadow governor for Mogadishu and had been one of al-Shabab's most outspoken officials. In his last public speech earlier this year, he boasted that the extremist group had the upper hand in guerrilla warfare against Somalia's government in the capital.
The U.S. statement said the airstrike occurred 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.
The U.S. Africa Command has told The Associated Press it was a drone strike.
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," the U.S. statement said.
The U.S. has carried out a handful of airstrikes since Trump's expansion of military efforts. The U.S. military in early July said it carried out an airstrike against al-Shabab in Somalia and was assessing the results, with few details. The airstrike followed one in June that the U.S. said killed eight extremists at a rebel command and logistics camp in the south.
The Somalia-based al-Shabab recently mocked Trump in a video that called him a "brainless billionaire." The extremist group also has vowed to step up attacks in Somalia after the president elected in February declared a new offensive against al-Shabab.
The extremist group also has carried out deadly attacks in neighboring countries, notably Kenya, calling it retribution for sending troops to Somalia to fight it.