JOHANNESBURG — The United States military said Thursday it has killed 24 al-Shabab extremists with an airstrike in Somalia, one of its deadliest in months.
The airstrike was carried out on Wednesday near an extremist camp near Shebeeley in the central Hiran region north of the capital, Mogadishu, the U.S. Africa Command said in a statement.
It was the ninth such airstrike carried out by the U.S. this year. The U.S. carried out nearly 50 strikes last year in the Horn of Africa nation against the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa.
Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack on a hotel complex in the capital of neighboring Kenya earlier this month that left 21 people dead.
The extremist group, which targets Kenya in retaliation for sending troops to Somalia, has also targeted hotels, government offices and checkpoints in Mogadishu with suicide bombings.
The group is also accused of stealing humanitarian aid in the often drought-hit country and extorting residents and travelers to fund its attacks.
The U.S. statement said the airstrikes are meant to support Somali forces as they increase pressure on al-Shabab and its recruiting efforts in the region, especially in southern and central Somalia. Extremist camps and other safe havens are targeted.
The U.S. statement said no civilians were killed or injured in the latest airstrike.
On Jan. 19 the U.S. said an airstrike had killed 52 al-Shabab extremists in Middle Juba region after a “large group” mounted an attack on Somali forces.
A Somali intelligence officer said the extremist group had been amassing some 400 fighters for more than a week to launch a major attack against Somali and Kenyan forces in order to disrupt a planned offensive.
In October, the U.S. said an airstrike killed about 60 fighters near the al-Shabab-controlled community of Harardere in Mudug province in the central part of the country.
The United States has dramatically stepped up airstrikes against al-Shabab in Somalia since President Donald Trump took office.
Experts have said it will take more than airstrikes, however, to defeat the extremists.’