US airstrike kills top IS group leader in northern Somalia

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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A United States airstrike killed a senior leader of the extremist rebels of the Islamic State in Somalia group involved in attacks in northern Somalia, U.S. military and a Somali official said Monday.

The U.S. Africa Command said in statement that it carried out an airstrike near Xiriiro, a village in northern Somalia’s semi-independent Puntland state on Sunday, killing Abdulhakim Dhuqub, the deputy leader of the Somali extremists linked to the Islamic State group.

Dhuqub was responsible for the daily operations of the extremist group, planning attacks and getting resources, said the U.S. military statement.

The airstrike targeted the vehicle carrying Dhuqub, said the statement. No civilians were injured or killed as a result of this airstrike, according to the U.S. military.

“We continue to work with our Somali partners to keep pressure on the al-Shabaab and ISIS-Somalia terror networks,” said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Gregg Olson, U.S. Africa Command director of operations.

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“We use precision airstrikes to target those who plan and carry out the violent extremist activities that put Somalis at risk,” he said.

Puntland’s security minister Abdisamad Mohamed Galan also confirmed the killing of the extremist leader in the U.S. airstrike, which said also killed other members of the group, without giving further details.

The airstrike occurred as the extremists were travelling to their base in the remote mountainous villages in the region, said a Somali intelligence official. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

The Islamic State in Somalia group was formed in late 2015 when extremist fighters in Puntland broke away al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaida. The new group’s leader, Abdulqadir Mumin pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, perhaps influenced by an IS social media campaign urging them to defect.

Since May 2017 the group has launched attacks against security forces in the region and it has also clashed many times with the bigger al-Shabab group.

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