U.S. airstrikes kill 15 al-Shabaab militants in Somalia

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MOGADISHU, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- The United States military said Friday it killed 15 fighters from the extremist group al-Shabaab in two airstrikes conducted in separate engagements in the past two days in southern Somalia.

The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), which oversees American troops on the African continent, said in a statement that the first airstrike occurred in the vicinity of Gandarshe, Lower Shebelle region on Wednesday in which 11 militants were killed.

According to the statement, four al-Shabaab fighters were killed in the second airstrike on Thursday in the vicinity of Bariire, Lower Shebelle region.

"This precision airstrike was executed after our Somali partners were engaged by al-Shabab militants as they conducted an operation to disrupt al-Shabab efforts to illegally tax and intimidate civilians in the area," said AFRICOM in the statement.

"The Federal Government of Somalia is placing persistent pressure on al-Shabab and its affiliates, working to create conditions for enhanced security and stability," said Gregg Olson, AFRICOM director of operations, in the statement.

AFRICOM said no civilians were injured or killed in either of the strike and committed to continue supporting Somalia and other African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces by ensuring the militants are flushed out from their safe havens.

Washington has stepped up its military support of Somalia over the past few years. Some strikes have inflicted considerable casualties on al-Shabab in the last two months. Enditem

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