Mogadishu: The Africa Union (AU) forces, alongside Somali government troops, on Thursday captured several villages in central Somalia’s Hiran region from Al-Shabaab militants, a local official said.
Hiran region mayor Abdifitah Hassan Afrah said the joint forces seized the villages after fierce battles during which the AU fighter jets conducted air strikes on the militants, Xinhua news agency reported.
Afrah said four villages were retaken and the militants took heavy causalities.
“This operation is aimed to liberate all villages controlled by Al-Shabaab in Hiran region, and AU warplanes carried out airstrikes against the enemies to force them to flee these villages,” he said.
He also denied that there were casualties on the joint forces side.
“The fighting was huge and we heard heavy explosions because fighter jets were involved in the battle,” said local resident Adan Said.
Fadumo Yasin contributed to this report from Bosaso in Puntland.
The deputy leader of the Islamic State group in Somalia has been killed in an airstrike, a Somali regional minister told VOA.
Abdisamad Mohamed Gallan, security Minister of the Puntland region, told VOA Somali the airstrike that killed Abdihakim Mohamed Ibrahim, known as Dhoqob, took place Sunday between the villages of Hol Anod and Hiriro.
Gallan said the strike hit the vehicle Dhoqob and another passenger were travelling in. He said both men were killed but the other person has not yet been identified.
“The vehicle was burned,” said a witness who didn’t want to be named.
IS Somalia is led by Sheikh Abdulkadir Mumin, a former scholar for al-Shabab. In October 2015 he defected from the group and pledged his allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Dhoqob was Mumin’s right-hand-man and has appeared in videos produced by the group. Mumin himself survived another airstrike in his mountainous hideout in Bari region in November 2017.
“Killing one of their top leaders will speed up their eradication,” Gallan said.
Puntland officials have not commented on who carried out the attack but the U.S. military in Africa has been conducting relentless strikes against militants in Somalia. This year alone, U.S. has carried out more than 30 airstrikes, all of them against al-Shabab.