US airstrikes kill 26 more al-Shabab fighters in Somalia

U.S. airstrikes have killed another 26 members of the al-Shabab extremist group in Somalia, officials said on Friday, in a continuation of recent attacks that had already killed 55 earlier this week. 

A U.S. Africa Command statement said the latest strike came on Thursday, in the Hiran region of the country. That's the same area where earlier attacks took place, and a known area of al-Shabab activity.

The stepped-up U.S. action comes at a time of renewed terror attacks by al-Shabab in Mogadishu, the country's capital. The new strike was announced after more details were revealed about the latest terror attack, which left 24 people killed and another 50 injured.

That attack began with a pair of car bombs Thursday night in Mogadishu, in a popular area of the city featuring a number of bars and restaurants. The attack was one of the most serious terror strikes in months.

Somali officials said on Friday that those who had carried out the attack had been taken out in gun battles that continued into the morning with the al-Shabab, a group linked to al-Qaeda.  One of the bombs in the attack went off near the home of appeals court chief Judge Abshir Omar, and security forces fought off gunmen who tried to force their way inside.

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“We heard a huge blast, a devastating blast that affected all the buildings,” said Mohamed Ibrahim Mo’alim, the secretary general of the national union of Somali journalists. At least four gunmen then opened fire at nearby buildings and businesses, sparking clashes with hotel guards, he said. Dozens of cars caught fire along busy Maka Almukarramah Road.

Al-Shabab has been more active of late. It was being an attack on a luxury hotel complex in neighboring Kenya last month and was also behind the deadliest attack in Somalia’s history, a massive truck bombing that killed well over 500 people in Mogadishu in October 2017.

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U.S. forces have been much more active against al-Shabab in the Trump administration. Though how effective the strikes will be over the long term remains to be seen. Al-Shabab continues to hold large swaths of territory out of Mogadishu, in the rural cental part of the country, and in southern Somalia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report