Mogadishu: At least three foreign militants of the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab rebels were killed in a strike on a car in a rebel stronghold in southern Somalia early on Friday, a senior Somali intelligence official and residents said.
The intelligence official, who declined to be named, said he was investigating reports that the explosion could have been caused by an airstrike or missile attack on a car carrying foreign fighters.
"At least three foreign militants were killed in the explosion, and we are investigating if it was air strikes or a missile and whether there are more casualties," the intelligence official said.
Residents said the strike took place in the lower Shabelle region, 60 km south of the capital Mogadishu.
A missile launched from an unmanned aircraft killed a foreign fighter with al Shabaab on January 21, which the militant group said came from a US drone.
It was not possible to independently verify that report. The United States never comments officially on drone strikes.
At a London conference aimed at energising attempts to end more than 20 years of anarchy in Somalia, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday cautioned that Western air strikes on al Shabaab-held zones.
Al Shabaab rebels are also fighting troops from Kenya, which has carried out frequent air strikes on militant bases in southern Somalia after launching an incursion to hunt down the insurgents whom it accuses of cross-border attacks.
Kenya's military spokesman was not available to comment.
The Somali government says hundreds of foreign fighters have joined the Islamist insurgency from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Gulf region, and Western nations such as the United States and Britain.
Some of them have taken up senior positions within al Shabaab.
First Published: Friday, February 24, 2012, 14:19