Mogadishu: A regional leader of the al-Shabab extremist group has been killed in a raid by Somalia's military, the government announced today, as the country's new offensive against the fighters moves ahead.
The statement by Somalia's information minister said Lower Shabelle regional leader Moalin Osman Abdi Badil and three associates were killed Friday in Bariire village west of the capital, Mogadishu.
There is no immediate comment from the extremist group.
The raid came a day after a US service member was killed while supporting an operation by Somalia's military in the same area.
The Pentagon called it the first US combat death in Somalia since 1993. That's when US forces pulled out of the Horn of Africa nation in the wake of the "Black Hawk Down" incident in which two helicopters were shot down and bodies of American soldiers were dragged through the streets.
Both Somalia and the US are stepping up efforts against the Somalia-based al-Shabab, which has carried out attacks in other parts of East Africa and continues to target the Somali capital with deadly bombings.
Somalia's new President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed on April 6 declared the country a war zone and launched a new offensive against al-Shabab, while offering the extremists a 60-day amnesty period to surrender.
"Leave al-Shabab now," the government statement said today. "Defect, as many of your brothers are beginning to do."
Somalia's military is under growing pressure to take full responsibility for the long-chaotic country's security as a multinational African Union force prepares to start withdrawing in 2018.
The US military has been supporting Somalia in recent years with a small number of special operations forces and counter-terror advisers, along with a number of airstrikes against al-Shabab.