U.S. air strike hits al Shabaab; Somalia says base destroyed

WASHINGTON/NAIROBI (Reuters) - The United States carried out an air strike on al Shabaab militants in Somalia on Sunday, and Somalia said its special forces had joined in the attack to destroy one of the group’s main training and command posts.

The Pentagon estimated that the strike, in response to attacks in Somalia by al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab, killed eight militants.

The strike was the first by the United States in Somalia under new authorities granted by President Donald Trump in March and was conducted in coordination with regional partners, the Pentagon said. It was a drone strike, a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.

The base was in the Middle Juba region in southern Somalia, the office of Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi said.

“Earlier today, I authorised our special forces with the support of our international partners to conduct a strike against an al Shabaab training camp near Sakow,” his statement said.

“This was a successful strike that destroyed a key al Shabaab command and supply hub. This will ultimately disrupt the enemy’s ability to conduct new attacks within Somalia.”

There was no immediate comment from al Shabaab.

On Thursday, al Shabaab killed 59 people in an attack on a military base in the semi-autonomous Puntland region in northern Somalia.

Since being pushed out of the capital Mogadishu in 2011, al Shabaab has lost control of most of Somalia’s cities and towns. But it still retains a strong presence in swathes of the south and center and still carries out major gun and bomb attacks.

The group aims to topple Somalia’s government, drive out African Union peacekeeping troops and impose its own harsh interpretation of Islamic law.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner and Idrees Ali in Washington and George Obulutsa in Nairobi; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Grant McCool