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US Announces Strike on al-Shabab Fighters in Somalia


FILE - A young boy leads hard-line Islamist al-Shabab fighters as they conduct military exercises in northern Mogadishu's Suqaholaha neighborhood, Somalia.

FILE - A young boy leads hard-line Islamist al-Shabab fighters as they conduct military exercises in northern Mogadishu's Suqaholaha neighborhood, Somalia.

The United States said Wednesday that it had launched a "self-defense" airstrike on al-Shabab fighters in Somalia, killing at least nine militants.

The Pentagon's announcement of the strike partly confirmed a report by the Somalia government. Somali officials said the strike on the central town of Galkayo killed 22 of their soldiers and wounded 16 others.

When questioned about the report, a U.S. official said, "We do not think these allegations are in any way true."

Regional security minister Osman Isse Nur told VOA's Somali service that the strikes targeted a base outside the village of Jehdin, 30 kilometers east of Galkayo. Nur blamed intelligence forces in the neighboring Puntland administration for giving the U.S. incorrect information.

"This morning at 3:30 we believe U.S. planes bombed our base, acting on wrong information given by the Puntland intelligence," he said.

Journalists who visited the hospital in Galkayo counted the bodies of 14 soldiers and said they saw 11 others who were wounded.

Nur said Galmudug region forces were in the area to protect nomads and keep the security situation under control when the attack happened. He said four battle wagons (pickup trucks mounted with heavy machine guns) were destroyed in the attack.

While he blamed the Puntland authorities for giving the wrong information, he blamed the United States for the strike.

"U.S. planes were behind the airstrikes that killed our forces and destroyed the battle wagons," he said. "It's very clear, without a doubt, that this was carried out by the U.S."

Nur said soldiers from the Puntland administration collaborating with U.S. forces attacked the base from the ground during the strikes. Puntland officials could not be reached for comment.

Duran Said Arab, an elder in Jehdin village, told journalists that a plane had flown overhead and bombed two vehicles and a water tanker used by the Galmudug soldiers.

Galmudug authorities denied that there was al-Shabab presence in the area of the attack.

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