WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military has made an air strike against a senior leader of the al Qaeda-linked militant group al Shabaab in Somalia, the Pentagon said, and African forces said they killed another senior al Shabaab commander.
The Pentagon said the results of its airstrike, carried out on Thursday, were still being assessed. It said its target was Hassan Ali Dhoore, who played a direct role in al Shabaab's Christmas Day 2014 attack on Mogadishu airport, in which an American was among the dead, and in an attack on a Mogadishu hotel in 2015 that killed 15 people, including a Somali-American.
The group, whose name means "The Youth," seeks to impose its strict version of sharia law in Somalia, where it frequently attacks security and government targets, as well as hotels and restaurants in the capital.
"Removing Dhoore from the battlefield would be a significant blow to al-Shabaab's operational planning and ability to conduct attacks against the government of the Federal Republic of Somalia, its citizens, U.S. partners in the region, and against Americans abroad," the Pentagon said in a statement on Friday.
African Union forces (AMISOM) said they killed "notorious al Shabaab commander for Janaale Abdirashir Buqdube together with 22 other terrorists" in an operation with the Somali army in Janaale, south of the capital Mogadishu on Friday night. AMISOM issued its statement on Saturday.
It said another 12 al Shabaab fighters were killed in the previous two days after they ambushed AMISOM and Somali army troops repairing boreholes and clearing roads in the area. Its statement did not mention the U.S. strikes.
Last month the United States targeted an al Shabaab training camp in Somalia in an air strike that the Pentagon says killed more than 150 fighters.
Al Shabaab was pushed out of Mogadishu by African Union peacekeeping forces in 2011 but has remained a potent antagonist in Somalia, launching frequent attacks aimed at overthrowing the Western-backed government.
Al Shabaab has also been behind deadly attacks in Kenya and Uganda, which both contribute troops to an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Additional reporting by Eric Beech and Duncan Miriri in Nairobi; Editing by Mohammad Zargham/Ruth Pitchford)